When you go to see “A Quiet Place,” skip the popcorn.
In Bryan Woods and Scott Beck’s original script for “A Quiet Place,” there was only one line of dialogue. Before viewing “A Quiet Place,” I was apprehensive that this fact would be all too apparent as a gimmick and get old after the first 20 minutes. That was not the case. In fact, from the first minute on, “A Quiet Place” grips its audience and does not let go.
The premise of “A Quiet Place” is simple. The earth has been infested with creatures that rely entirely on sound to hunt. Most of the world’s population has been wiped out, but it is possible to live: just don’t make any noise. The story follows all the ins and outs of one family’s survival in this world. The set-up of the film is like one of those “minute to learn — lifetime to master” games, and in the wrong hands, it could easily have turned into a run-of-the-mill horror movie. As it stands, “A Quiet Place” is one of the most engaging films of the year.
The tension of “A Quiet Place” is palpable and has the potential to be a terrifying experience if one allows themselves to enter the world of the characters. The film lives in a heightened state of anxiety; the terror faced by the characters invites the audience to participate actively in the silence. This is the genius of “A Quiet Place” on the surface-level-analysis of shock quality. Horror films depend on the empathy of their viewers to be successful. If the viewer cannot empathize with the characters and the situations they find themselves in, then there are no stakes. In “A Quiet Place” the audience is coerced into making no noise by the lack of sound. This in turn places the audience in the same situation as the protagonists, albeit with less extreme repercussions.
The weight of the film is evenly distributed on the shoulders of the four lead actors. John Krasinski (who also directs) and Emily Blunt sell their performances well as the family’s respective father and mother, but equally impressive are the performances given by Noah Jupe and Millicent Simmonds as the younger brother and his deaf sister, respectively. Simmonds in particular is wonderful, having previously starring in “Wonderstruck” (where she is also excellent). The significance of having an actual deaf person to play a deaf character is exciting to see, especially since Simmonds is such a joy to watch.
The pacing of “A Quiet Place” is sparkling. Never once did I feel bored or wonder when the film would end. The crowded theater sat in a rapt silence, broken only by the occasional popcorn munch. Each story beat hit the mark and was and emotionally resonant. And although the soundtrack leaned into a little too much for shock value, it works to great effect.
“A Quiet Place,” like most good cinema, exists on multiple planes. It’s not just a horror film, it’s a meditation on grief, family and what it is like to live in constant fear.
“A Quiet Place” resonated with me personally on a level I didn’t expect. As a person with an anxious temperament, I live with a permanent alarm blaring in the back of my head. “A Quiet Place” lived on that same plane, and so within it, I found an externalization of myself. It’s one of the reason I like horror films so much. I can’t wait to watch it again.