I don’t usually see horror movies opening week, but a post-apocalyptic monster movie? I'm an easy mark. A Quiet Place, John Krasinski's (the American The Office) directorial debut, combines all the sub-genres that I'll happily throw money at.
The film not only meets the standard expectations for a modern monster movie, it goes in a bold new direction – one that could have easily backfired. Overall, the film contains almost no spoken dialogue.
You see, as the "If they hear you, they hunt you" tagline suggests, the creatures in the movie hunt based on sound rather than sight. The film follows the daily routines of a presumably midwestern American family trying to get by on their secluded farm, after the mass appearance of highly lethal creatures that kill anything that makes noise.
The eldest daughter of the family is deaf; meaning each of them can communicate using American Sign Language. On screen, this is assisted via subtitles. This lack of spoken dialogue allows the movie to really emphasise all the other sounds in the film, which as you might guess, really lends itself to the horror genre.
The Little Things
A lot of people liked this film, and some thought it was just another monster flick. For me personally, something I was really impressed with was the world building and detail that went into telling this story. So much was intentionally left unsaid, but visual clues were everywhere that really helped make this world and its dreadful situation seem real.
The most obvious is the workshop of the father character Lee, played by Krasinski. The centrepiece of this set shows his whiteboard, which contains brainstorms and various ideas/facts he has learned about the creatures. You can go even deeper than this, as all around his workspace are an abundance of newspaper clippings which, if you look at carefully, explain the origin of the creatures, despite this never being addressed in the film.
The writers really thought about this world and the lengths the characters would need to go to in order to survive. When they raid a supermarket for supplies, all the loud snacks are left untouched. When walking in their home, select floorboards have been painted to designate which ones won't creak. When the family eats, they don’t use cutlery or plates of any sort. Some of these features of the story are made plainly obvious, whereas others are very subtle, but each one builds on the other, crafting a world where sound is the enemy.
Small Budget, More Than Makes The Most Of It
For a film with a budget of roughly 20 million dollars, A Quiet Place makes use of every single penny. Settings are minimal, but masterfully crafted and detailed. The story itself is as simple as the locations are spartan: It's just a daily grind for these people, until something goes wrong of course.
The lion’s share of the money went on the creatures, rendered almost entirely in CGI. According to reports, the monsters were not edited in until near the end of production. Normally, this would have me raising an eyebrow, but once you see them, or more importantly, see the way they move, you'll understand. The production team spent most of filming trying to get the way the creatures looked just right. The end result is very pleasing. Even if you aren’t scared easily by movie monsters, the way the things move is delightfully unsettling—and above all else, predatory. The film really plays on that primal fear buried in us all of whippet-fast carnivores, a reminder of when man’s greatest enemy was the wolf and the lion.
Good Performances All Round
I tend to avoid child actor heavy films—not because children annoy me; they usually just can't carry a role of substance. Half the cast in this movie consists of young children, and I have to say I was very impressed. Millicent Simmonds was fantastic as the family’s deaf daughter (interesting side note, she is deaf herself in real life) and the choice of Emily Blunt (The Devil Wears Prada, Edge of Tomorrow) as Evelyn, the mother of the family, was another solid choice.
Emily Blunt is John Krasinski's real-life spouse, with the two having recently had a child in 2016. In a film that is inherently about the lengths you'll go to for your family and to protect your children, this choice of casting really helps breathe real life into the performance.
Leaves You With Questions
Like any good story, the film leaves you wanting more, which I think is not only down to the story itself and the way it concludes, but again, all those clues peppered about the film. By the end, you have so many questions—and ideas of your own—that you can't help but want a second movie, which is more or less confirmed at this stage.
While I'm not sure if this film could (or necessarily should) be franchised, given how unique the storytelling style is in this initial movie, I'd still pay to see another; perhaps exploring a less ideal setting than the isolated farm used in this film.
Either way, if you like any of the vast sub-genres related to monsters or apocalypse scenarios, then this is a film for you.