It’s a hugely exciting time to be a horror fan. From Get Out‘s Oscar-storming glory, to Raw, Thelma, The Witch, Unsane, and a variety of other movies quietly rewriting the genre rules, there’s so much to admire and more choice than even hardcore fans ever considered possible. This month alone will gift us Ghost Stories (old-school British chills), Truth Or Dare (schlocky slasher spills), and, arguably most important of all, A Quiet Place.
The second feature from actor turned writer-director John Krasinski (of The US Office fame) is not just your average horror movie. In much the same way that Get Out or The Witch weren’t average horror movies. A Quiet Place is an all-timer, a modern masterpiece that feels, even while you’re watching it, like the kind of film that’s quickly going to make its way into your regular rotation. It’s going to sit on your shelf alongside the likes of Halloween, A Nightmare On Elm Street, and The Texas Chain Saw Massacre. It’s that bloody good.
If this all sounds like hyperbole, well, buckle up. First and foremost, A Quiet Place is mostly silent. It takes something so easily manipulated by cheap horror movies and exploits it to the degree that the silence itself, rather than the threatened jump scare, is scary. It’s so quiet you’ll want to stay quiet too. It’s so quiet popcorn shouldn’t be sold for it.
Krasinski and real-life wife Emily Blunt play parents to two kids, with another on the way, in a post-apocalyptic wasteland not dissimilar to our own world. A variety of cleverly arranged newspaper clippings, scattered about their farm-based homestead, alert us to the fact that some kind of monster/alien/thing is roaming around, hunting its victims by sound. Most other humans have been wiped out as a result. The woodland stretches beyond, holding untold horrors. Even the trees are hushed.
The family, as a result, have eked out some kind of life by communicating mostly in sign language thanks, primarily, to their deaf daughter (played by deaf actress Millicent Simmonds, excellent) as well as the harsh circumstances. They walk around barefoot and mark the creaky spots on the floorboards so nobody gives away their location by accidentally stepping on one.
Wisely, Krasinski, who rewrote the original script after being coerced into taking on the project by Blunt, insisted on shooting the thing on film. There’s a lovely, very richly textured quality to it as a result that’s in keeping with the old-school monster vibe. Krasinski, who by his own admission isn’t a big horror guy (much to the Internet’s annoyance), used westerns as reference points, including the Coens’ No Country For Old Men.
The film feels inescapably, violently realistic as a result. Krasinski obeys the rules of great monster movies by only showing glimpses of his creatures for most of A Quiet Place‘s running time, only revealing the money shot when the tension has been ratcheted all the way up. This is a profoundly scary movie. It doesn’t even take its time luring you in. It gets you right away. The jolts knock you out of your seat, the tension crawls under your skin and lays eggs.
Many have read the premise as a metaphor for the horrors of society being unable to function in silence, but the movie could more literally be seen as a take on the horrors of being a parent. Krasinki and Blunt’s central preoccupation throughout is solidifying the well-being of their children, even in a situation where they know it’s almost impossible to do so.
Although A Quiet Place‘s gimmick is worth seeing the movie for alone, what really sells it are the four, equally strong performances at its core. Krasinski, Blunt, Simmonds, and young Noah Jupe (Wonder, Suburbicon) are all brilliant, fully committed to selling us on this genuinely horrifying situation. Even if the monsters were barely glimpsed, the terror would still be keenly felt just read from their eyes.
But this is still a monster movie and thankfully the FX, from legendary studio ILM, are genuinely jaw-dropping. The beasties are horrifyingly believable and tactile, the close-up doing them just as much justice as the wide shot. Comparisons to the Cloverfield computer-blob are completely unfounded. This is far more Alien Queen than CG sludge.
Speaking of which, Krasinski references everything from Jurassic Park to Alien, and horror fans will have fun picking out other nods buried within the film’s walls. But this is still very much its own thing, both resolutely fresh and unique but familiar enough to make us wonder what else Krasinski has lurking in the shadows.
Comparisons to the other year’s ghastly Don’t Breathe, which had a similar but far less effectively employed premise, are also thankfully unfounded. Where that film was deadeningly obvious, overripe, and fundamentally not scary (attempted turkey baster rape isn’t inherently frightening, it’s just sick), this is elegantly subtle, Don’t Breathe‘s grim nastiness swapped out for pure, untouched tension and genuine terror.
Not only does it mark Krasinski out as one to watch, hardcore horror fan or otherwise, but it provides yet more evidence that there’s life in the old genre yet. On this evidence, there’s never been a better time to be a horror fan. If there are voices like Krasinski’s waiting to be heard, the best may yet be to come.
WICKED RATING: 9/10
Director(s): John Krasinski
Writer(s): John Krasinski, Scott Beck, Bryan Woods
Stars: John Krasinski, Emily Blunt, Millicent Simmonds, Noah Jupe
Release date: April 6, 2018
Studio/ Production Co: Platinum Dunes
Length: 90 minutes
Subgenre: Creature feature