I hate hyperbolizing in my reviews. Not only did I spend my teens paying for a childhood of calling each movie I saw “the best ever,” but words like ‘masterpiece’ and ‘classic’ can lose their power very easily with overuse.
Last year, though, I told people Dunkirk was quite probably the tensest movie I’d ever seen. I’d never outright said that about a movie I’d seen before, as no movie had impacted me like Dunkirk. Now a second movie has.
A Quiet Place is the third directorial feature of John Krasinski, after the tepid comedies Brief Interviews with Hideous Men and The Hollars, and the shift in tone and talent is shocking. Changing gears from comedy to horror, Krasinski has delivered the strongest actor-directed movie since Argo.
Starring alongside real-life wife Emily Blunt, Krasinski plays Lee Abbott, a husband, father, and engineer who spends his days scavenging for food and collecting ammunition for his family’s protection.
Oh, did I forget to mention this is the year 2021 and the world is preyed upon by 8-foot-tall monsters that swiftly attack and kill anything that makes the slightest noise (leaving most of the population already dead)?
Lee and Evelyn (Blunt) live on a farm with their children, 14-year-old Regan (Millicent Simmonds) and 12-year-old Marcus (Noah Jupe). It’s been a little over a year since the creatures showed up and most of the human population has been decimated. Even the youngest child of Lee and Evelyn, Beau (Cade Woodward), gets killed in the opening scene. (A levitous movie this is not.)
After jumping from A Quiet Place‘s terrifying prologue to the main storyline one year after Beau’s death, we see the life of the Abbott family now that they’re survivalists. And now that Evelyn is pregnant.
Yes, that means what you think.
A Quiet Place uses the power silence in a way no movie has so well and so consistently. Movies like The Silence of the Lambs and Alien have created terror out of the slightest noise in the quiet, but never over the span of an entire movie.
There’s barely any talking in the movie; everyone mostly communicates in ASL. A Quiet Place is so creepily silent for most of its entirety that people in my theatre stopped eating their snacks just a minute or two in.
No, it’s not completely original in concept. Don’t Breathe tackled much the same plot device two years ago and Signs already covered the same narrative ground a decade and a half ago to wonderful effect. Even the post-apocalyptic family tale has been done already. But being first to the scene doesn’t matter when A Quiet Place outright does it better than all its predecessors.
Dunkirk elicited true terror in me through its use of editing and sound, as does A Quiet Place, though in opposite ways. Both movies created such horrific experiences to suffer through that I wanted to escape and each kept me nailed right to the seat and armrests the whole time.
Perhaps a stronger comparison, though, is The Shining. While Krasinski certainly doesn’t have Kubrick’s eye or even such a filmmaking prowess (yet), his use of sound and silence is the equal to Sir Stanley’s in the 1980 classic. And while it didn’t haunt me with nightmares like more traditional horror movies have, A Quiet Place held me more scared during its hour and a half than almost any movie in the nearly four decades since.