John Krasinski’s horror film, A Quiet Place, is a visual masterpiece that artfully plays with the elemental fears of the audience in a way that’s as original as it is scary -- all in the horror genre so often built on infuriating clichés and meretricious techniques. It’s becoming more and more apparent that many modern horror movies are mired in quotidian details, relying all too often on the timeliness of sudden music to elicit fear from the audience or deus ex machina to end their winding story. However convincing they try to be, though, a film has yet to truly embrace the art of horror -- the ability to tie the antagonist into the world as we know it. That is, until we were graced with the release of A Quiet Place. With cleanly executed cinematography, felicitous music, and flawlessly raw acting, A Quiet Place represents a cinematic feat in a multitude of categories. Not only is this film a true embodiment of a world where our voice, which we so often fail to properly utilize, is deemed useless, but underlies the thematic connection woven into a family stripped of their traditional means of communication.
This almost silent thriller follows a family of five who live in an abandoned, post-apocalyptic town, haunted by a grisly monster rarely seen by the human eye. It’s catalyst? Sound. Even the slightest sound, like the crunching of leaves or the drop of an object, is always followed by a pause, a harrowing pause that shows us and the characters coiled and waiting to reap the consequences. So when an untimely scream initiates a frenzy of pandemonium, the story takes a harrowing turn that could only mean the worst. With this, all the details, from the creaks of floorboards to even the slightest missteps of the characters, could lead to an unprecedented and completely different ending.
Directed by John Krasinski, A Quiet Place is a straight-to-the-point and lean movie, without the intrusive side-story or the purportedly misplaced soundtrack. It seems as if each shot is meticulously calculated to show the depth of the situation, pointing at potential signs of dangers and balancing the rate at which our hearts beat -- not too fast at once, but not slow enough to stay calm. It’s common that they’ll show an object terrifyingly close to the edge, or a nail on the ground to leave you on the cusp, but even the foreshadowing leaves us with fresh pain when the shot comes into play. With this in mind, though, it is assured that nothing is needlessly over dramatized, like a shot of windchimes waiting for that unfortunate breeze, or a panning of broken glass expecting to turn a gruesome vermillion. It’s also apparent that composer Marco Beltrami's score (apart from maybe one or two moments of 'jump scare') provided an emotional language of its own to fill in the silence from the characters. Unlike in most noisy films where there is no space to effectively add music, Beltrami had the chance here to truly grab full control of the emotional narrative free of auditory distractions.
Aside from the vivid cinematic techniques used to bring life to this film, the location played a key role in truly capturing the audience’s attention. Majority of the movie is set in a abandoned farm with a careful, subdued color palette, and the geography leaves place for creativity and sets the somber, coiled tone that can be found throughout the movie. Krasinski wastes no space in his setting and incorporates all the aspects of the farm in his film, tying them in seamlessly but making sure they play a significant role to the story. The beautiful and thoughtful sense of setting allows us to feel as if we’ve been there before and makes the horror a little too real, as if we were sitting in our worn out leather chairs while this trepidation unfolded rather nearby.
Another aspect that’s crucial to a film, especially one that relies so heavily on action rather than dialogue is the actors, and every single one of them played their part beautifully. Emily Blunt plays Evelyn Abbott, the wife of Lee Abbott (John Krasinski) and the mother to three children (Noah Jupe, Millicent Simmonds, Cade Woodward). In a world where verbal communication is minimal to non-existent, their familial chemistry is realistic and still shows the ups and downs of a real time family. For instance, the first half of the movie shows Regan (Millicent Simmonds) angry with her father for being over protective, and many teenagers can relate to that on a personal level. Like this, each character has a unique story or temperament that makes the story a little more realistic and pulls at the tension, making the monster only part of the bigger problem. That could easily become a hitch to a less experienced filmmaker, making the characters seem like a different story entirely and detracting from the real antagonist at hand, but Krasinski sewed them in so delicately that their personalities only accentuate the monstrosity that hides from their sight, and truly shows how the characters’ various perceived personas morphe into one to retaliate against an enemy that controls their every move.
A Quiet Place breaks the norms of conventional horror flicks that are becoming so achingly familiar, and succeeds in delivering a new subgenre -- one that relies less on intangible paranormal occurrences but focuses more on creating a new rendition of a two dimensional world. Fans of less shiny and extravagant thrillers without the overwhelming spray of jumpscares are sure to enjoy this resounding cinematic expedition worthy of its replayability. The audience can find every element of a riveting flick within the folds of this intricate tour de force, each expertly balanced and laid out so that one doesn’t overshadow the other. So rarely do we find a movie which pushes the art of storytelling towards its pinnacle, but viewers can expect A Quiet Place to do just that.