By Jack Mansfield
(going to try to keep this as spoiler-free as possible!)
It’s not very often that a trailer for a horror film has me wholly intrigued, but as soon as I saw the trailer for A Quiet Place (John Krasinski, 2018), I was left excited, and my curiosity was well and truly piqued. More often than not, horror trailers put me off the idea of watching them. Take today, for example. The trailers preceding the main event were heavily clichéd, teen slasher flicks that show way too much of the films they’re aiming to sell, which probably highlighted to me just how much A Quiet Place stands out from a lot of horror films that have come before it.
Set in the near future, the story follows one family as they struggle to survive in a post-apocalyptic world, constantly under the threat of being hunted by monsters that prey on the slightest of sounds. I don’t want to give much more of a synopsis of the film simply because, if I go further, I risk spoiling key plot details, and I believe that doing so would lessen the experience (I knew almost nothing about the film before going to the cinema!) Where the tagline for 1979’s Alien read ‘In space, no one can hear you scream’, making any noticeable sound – let alone screaming – in the world of A Quiet Place would be less than hopeless: it’s fatal, and here this simple premise is used to its highest potential.
The film wastes absolutely no time in setting the bar high with an instantly tense opening scene. The audience is informed that we are joining the action on Day 89 post-world ending event, which definitely works in its favour as we get to follow a family who has learned different survival techniques at this point in their attempts to live on. We join Lee (Krasinski) and Evelyn (Emily Blunt) as they scavenge for supplies in a small town with their children Regan (Millicent Simmonds), Marcus (Noah Jupe), and Beau (Cade Woodward). It’s here we start to see how they have survived for so long: daughter Regan is hard of hearing, which is actually an advantage for the family as they are all able to communicate in sign language. The family have set up paths made from sand to minimalise the sound when they walk. While this opening scene shows how well they have adapted, it also shows how nothing can truly prepare them for what follows if they make a sound, and in a suitably harrowing fashion.
If you’re telling a story about a family, it definitely helps when the family we’re following is a believable one. In A Quiet Place, this is absolutely the case. Krasinski and Blunt naturally share fantastic chemistry as a married couple in the film as they’re married in real life, and the relationship between the two as well as their on-screen children dominates the narrative. You really root for this family, you want them to survive the horrors that hunt them. Individually, all of the performances in this film are captivating, but Blunt stands out as a mother who has to overcome the greatest adversity in the most hostile of atmospheres.
Standing in the way of this family and their safety is is one of the most terrifying monsters in any film I’ve seen before. I’ll do my best not to spoil anything too great about the malevolent creature that’s probably going to haunt my dreams for a little while, but what makes this monster so frightening is the fact that it is near-unstoppable. It’s lightning quick, it can pick up even the quietest movements, and the noises it makes are blood-curdling. While perhaps not as iconic as the original Xenomorph from Alien or the dinosaurs from Jurassic Park, for example, it certainly evokes a similar sense of fear in me as these movie monsters did when I first saw their respective films.
Speaking of sounds being made (and more often not made), this film stands as proof that sound is the greatest weapon in a horror film’s terror-inducing arsenal. In a 90-minute runtime, about only five minutes of that contains spoken dialogue. The other 85 are a perfect mix of absolute silence (respectfully observed by my audience, which really heightened its effect), the eerie sounds of nature in a barren land, and a pulse-racing soundtrack from Marco Beltrami (previously of Logan fame, the man’s got range!) While what we see on screen can be scary, it is sound that truly affirms visual horror and stirs our senses, and very few films have done it better than this.
A Quiet Place is equal parts horrifying and heart-pounding. It’s how this genre should be: you can keep your teen slasher flicks and worn out clichés, I’d rather watch a genre-definer like this any day. And you should too.