In a post-apocalyptic world, creatures that hunt by sound stalk a family that hides in farmhouse.
Whew! That was stressful. This movie grabs you in the first scene and never really lets go. I saw this in a sold out theatre, and the sound design in this film was such that you could hear every reaction of the crowd, every crinkle of a candy wrapper, every little nervous movement people made, but no one spoke the entire time; the crowd was utterly intoxicated by this film. I have rarely seen such a captivated audience, much less in a PG-13 horror flick, which, in my experience, are breeding grounds for dozens of irritatingly loquacious teenagers upset that couldn’t manage to sneak into the R-rated movie they originally had intended to see… and typing that sentence right there was when I realized I was getting old.
(SOME SPOILERS AHEAD)
Evelyn (Emily Blunt, “Sicario”) and Lee Abbott (John Krasinski, “Away We Go”) live silently with their children in a farmhouse, attempting to live their lives while still staying safe. It’s been over a year and a half since they came, the creatures that hunt by sound. The only way they’ve been able to survive so long is through their silence. Their daughter, Regan (Millicent Simmonds, “Wonderstruck”) is hard of hearing, and as a result the whole family is familiar with ASL. Without giving too much away, this is a simple story of survival, but set in a world familiar to our own but different in many ways.
In my opinion, the best part of this movie is the world building. The landscape we see is brimming with images that will grab your attention, but you need to be paying attention in order to see all that there is. Krasinski’s attention to detail really helped bring this post-apocalyptic world to life. Some of the things that they use don’t make as much sense as others (I find it hard to believe that the Abbotts were able to lay sand trails everywhere they walk, including into town, which seems to be a great distance away), but for the most part the design of the world was well planned and thought out.
The sound design in this film was so on point. “A Quiet Place” is a quiet movie (who’d have thunk?), but the noises that are there drag the viewer deeper into the world Krasinski has created. I don’t know what else to say about that, other than you need to experience it in order to really feel the tension it builds.
Next, the simplicity of the story; this film clocks in at an hour and a half, and it wastes not one second of that time. The story is very simplistic, but in its simplicity lays its strength. The characters in this story have a very straightforward goal: survive. The changes the characters go through are small but noticeable; they have small arcs, but they don’t really need large ones, because this is a small story. But while the story and character arcs are small, the emotion crammed into this story is huge. Along with that simplicity comes the breakneck pacing. This film moves a million miles a minute; I felt like I sat down and the movie was over. The movie is such an experience, one that, if you get a chance, deserves to be seen in a crowded theatre (if you’re reading this review some time down the road, sorry, but you missed out). The quiet nature of this film makes the viewer really pay attention, really lean in to listen and observe; even the less frightening scenes in this film are wrought with tension, and because of that tension, there really aren’t any dull moments. And without giving anything away, the way the film ends is brilliant: I actually let out a ‘woo’ when the credits began to roll, and others in the audience applauded.
Finally, I want to talk about the morality of this movie. In the past, a lot of horror films used excessive gore, nudity, and language in trying to draw in viewers (think of the Saw franchise, which polluted the cinemas almost every October during the 2000s). We’re pulling away from that now, and I think, entering a new golden age of psychological horror (“The Witch”, “It Follows”, “The Babadook”, “Get Out” are all great examples). This film actually takes it a step further; the blood in this film is minimal compared to similar films, there are no curse words at all, and there’s no sexual content at all. This movie takes the moral high ground, and as a result, we care so much more about the characters. This is a family that we’re watching; they love each other, they want to help each other survive, and that makes the stakes so much higher. When you look at old horror slasher “classics” like “Friday the 13th” or even “Halloween” (which, in this reviewer’s opinion is one of the most overrated horror films of all time), the people dying were usually amoral teens that we really have no connection to, and the filmmakers give us no reason to care about them. That’s not to say there aren’t good American slasher films (“Scream” and “Cabin in the Woods” are pretty great), but the viewers in those films came to see people get murdered, plain and simple. If you’re rooting for the killer to keep killing, then where’s the tension in that? Where’s the suspense? In my opinion, psychological horror films are where the magic happens, and it’s movies like this that I want to see more of.
I enjoyed the heck out of myself during my viewing; my nerves were ripped out and shredded to bits, and I came away feeling like I’d lived through a nightmare. This is a film for people who enjoy suspenseful films; if you don’t like intense movies, don’t see it. If you do, enjoy, because it’s a wild ride.
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