Less is more. That seems to be the spirit behind A Quiet Place. Directed by John Krasinski, with a story by Bryan Woods and Scott Beck, the film sticks with a simple premise. It keeps a tiny cast of characters and, as is usual for horror, a relatively small budget of $17 million. It’s a lean pool of resources. However, the filmmakers forged a powerful experience. A Quiet Place delivers both intense scares and strong, emotional performances.
A Quiet Place focuses on a family trying to survive in a post-apocalyptic world. Within the past year, a meteorite struck Mexico and brought with it a species of monsters. The “angels of death” are ruthless hunters, despite being blind. Their hearing is exceptional, though. The family has survived only by maintaining silence every moment of their lives. The mother and father, played by Emily Blunt and director Krasinski, try to keep life going as normal as possible. Their daughter, who is deaf and feels guilty about accidentally enabling the death of her younger brother, is played by Millicent Simmonds. Meanwhile, their son, played by Noah Jupe, is trying to grow up in a terrifying world, doing his best to survive.
These characters comprise pretty much everyone in the movie, and they are all played with great talent. I have to give special praise to Simmonds and Jupe. Child actors aren’t always the best, but these two offer fantastic performances. Jupe convincingly portrays a son who struggles on the verge of adolescence, a timid boy who’s terrified of the world in which he grows up. Meanwhile, Simmonds, playing the reserved and ashamed daughter, manages to deliver strong emotion through a silent performance. Even when she signs, she communicates frustration and pain. Emily Blunt as the mother is phenomenal, and with Krasinski as the father, we have a family that feels authentic.
That makes it easy for the film to build up its story. A horror movie should never be a movie ABOUT the horror. The Ring is about the mystery of Samara Morgan; It is about the perils and trials of growing up. In the same way, A Quiet Place is not about alien monsters that kill you if you make a sound. It’s about the anxiety of parents who realize they may not be enough to protect their children. That theme permeates the entire movie, and it strikes emotional chords that moved me to tears.
Of course, a horror movie does need to have scares. Trust me, A Quiet Place has plenty. From the very first frame, there’s a sense of unease. We see a small ruined town, our main characters silent as they search through a store for medicine. The visual storytelling gives us enough background to piece together what has happened, and we see what’s at stake. The movie does a good job of not revelling in violence (there’s very little blood and gore) but it doesn’t shy away from it either. It’s brutal without throwing it in our face. The suspense becomes so great at times that I nearly fled the theater. I also enjoyed the design of the monsters themselves. They’re kept mysterious for a good chunk of the movie, and when they’re revealed I was both impressed and disturbed. My only nitpick would be that it does use multiple fake-out jumpscares, with a couple of them feeling unnecessary. The good scares, however, far outnumber the bad.
Finally, I have to give a special mention to the sound editing department, who knocked it out of the park. Any film titled A Quiet Place needs to have good sound design. Luckily, the team here did a fantastic job. They know when to use a natural “silence” with trees or wind in the distance, and when to use an absolute silence. There are times where we hear from the perspective of the deaf daughter, or of the monster. Their work cements the thrills and suspense of the movie.
In a world of sprawling plotlines, A Quiet Place stays small and elegant. It focuses on what it wants to do, and does it well. With strong performances and touching themes, as well plenty of quality horror, I fully see it becoming a new horror masterpiece.
David Gouldthorpe is a senior in the College of Industrial and Labor Relations. He can be reached at [email protected]