By Jason Sawyer – Dec. 27, 2018
2018 – YEAR IN RETROSPECT review
Rated PG-13 – 1hr 30min
Languages: American Sign Language Directed by John Krasinski
Starring Emily Blunt, John Krasinski, Millicent Simmonds, Noah Jupe
It’s been nearly 15 months since the appearance of mysterious super-predatory creatures with hyper-sensitive hearing and human civilization has been reduced to the fringes of existence. It’s in this grim world that the Abbott family cling to survival in their isolated farmhouse, growing and scavenging what they can while remaining as silent as possible. All is not well, however, as mother Evelyn (Blunt) is very pregnant and expecting, father Lee (Krasinski) is distracted by the past, and teenage daughter Regan (Simmonds) is growing increasingly resentful over her fractured relationship with her dad. Throughout one fateful day, the family will learn how the best laid plans often go awry.
A Quiet Place is a relentlessly suspenseful monster movie that makes inventive use of noise and silence to develop tension and invoke a sense of dread regarding its always-listening antagonists. The premise is furthered by the extensive use of subtitled sign language in place of spoken dialogue in most scenes, amplifying the authenticity of the threat faced by the characters.
I highly doubt I was the only one who never suspected that Jim from The Office was a horror auteur in disguise. I looked through John Krasinski’s entire filmography and didn’t find a single thing that would indicate an interest in horror, let alone any talent involving it. I have no idea if he likes the genre or studied it or how he managed to pull this off, but A Quiet Place is a masterwork when it comes to generating suspense and nervous anticipation. Likewise, it’s also an expert demonstration in world-building – there’s great attention to detail throughout, from the prevalent use of sign language to the walking paths that require sanding to absorb the sound of footfalls to the use of lettuce leaves in place of plates to avoid any dangerous clinking noises.
The studio vetoed the original working title – STFU, Kid
Those are just a few examples as to how much care has gone into cultivating the atmosphere that permeates A Quiet Place. One of the key questions with which I approach a horror film is ‘How good is it at being the kind of movie that it seemingly wants to be?’ This film’s answer to that line of inquiry places it quite easily as one of the best of the decade. Throw in some top-notch performances from the principal cast (I can’t recall Emily Blunt ever being mediocre in anything – she instantly elevates anything she’s involved in) and the movie only gets better. Ironically, the award-nominated musical score from composer and longtime Wes Craven collaborator Marco Beltrami acts as another element that is deftly used to emphasize the value of silence.
With all this praise, it would be fair to assume that I’m dropping the ‘Best of 2018’ accolade at the proverbial feet of A Quiet Place without any more debate, but let’s not be too hasty. It is, virtually without competition, the purest horror film of the year. When it comes to generating suspense and apprehension, the Argentine offering Terrified is probably the only one that can even hang with it. There is, however, more to horror than these most basic classical elements – there’s more advanced components like dread, devastation, disgust, and subversion to be considered. There’s also traditional narrative quality and thematic depth to be appreciated as well.
“Seriously though, kid. STFU.”
It’s in those things that A Quiet Place doesn’t stand as tall. It pulls its punches – cutting away or flashing forward whenever matters promise to get too uncomfortable, but it never has any designs on being that kind of movie in the first place. Films that do and succeed tend to be more memorable for having done so – let’s not overlook the sheer audacity of The Exorcist having been released for Christmas 45 years ago, and it’s still being discussed prominently today. So, while A Quiet Place thrills in the moment, and has some touching and heart-warming things to say about family and parenthood along the way, it doesn’t leave the deepest impression once it’s over. There’s not much to think about afterward and the whole experience quickly begins to fade. Factor in the creature design and FX – which aren’t terrible, but aren’t great either – and the film is brought somewhat back down to earth.
While I can now confirm that A Quiet Place is one of the best of the year and very likely has a spot reserved in the decade’s top 25 by the grace of its amazing craftwork, it’s also an experience not unlike a great sugar rush. It’s terrific while it lasts, but doesn’t leave that much once it’s finished.
A Quiet Place gets a rating of