John Krasinski, famed for his everyman character Jim in hit sitcom The Office, has made an impressive directorial debut with box office success A Quiet Place.
The film entices with its unique world building, but falls down with hackneyed symbolism and misplaced priorities.
Set in the not so distant future (somewhere around 2021), the plot follows a family grasping at survival in a post apocalyptic world inhabited by aliens who hunt sound. If any character makes a noise they are dispatched swiftly and ferociously by these creatures that resemble some crossover between Stranger Thing’s demogorgon and the Cloverfield monster.
Since the aliens appear to be blind, and hunt sound, silence is tantamount to survival. The film takes this inventive premise to its extreme and what we are left with is an incessant tension that puts classic jump scare horror to shame.
The plot begins in media res, 89 days after the arrival of these aliens. We witness the devastating death of the youngest son in a family of five at the hands of one of the aliens. Then, jumping to roughly a year in the future, we follow the family coming to terms with their grief.
We are introduced to the soundless world they have built for themselves in simple scenes that dwell on minute details. This is where A Quiet Place really shines. The children play monopoly with felt pieces, the family eat with their hands instead of cutlery, and the father (played by Krasinski) is often seen laying out soft sand around their land to muffle footsteps. This world building results in a touching portrayal of a family trying to live a normal life, shrouded in silence.
sequences are tense and at times genuinely frightening, but quickly become boring
But rather than lean into this, Krasinski piles on the action sequences as the film goes on. The sequences are tense and at times genuinely frightening, but quickly become boring. When you’ve seen a lovecraftian monster chase a child through a cornfield once, you really don’t need to see it happen again.
The intimate scenes of a family trying to survive and achieve normalcy in the most hostile environment imaginable display Krasinksi’s talent. It is therefore a shame the film relied too heavily on grandiose CGI and the occasional unnecessary jump scare to frighten.
The mother, played masterfully by Emily Blunt, exhibits this central theme of familial survival against all odds. She is pregnant and intends to bring a baby, famously prone to making loud noises, into the world. This decision by Krasinski’s and Blunt’s characters would be an absurd plot point symptomatic of an extremely limiting premise, were it not for A Quiet Place’s central theme giving them their motivation. That is, the quest for survival and normalcy in near impossible circumstances.
But this homicidally irresponsible choice to bring a baby into the world struck me as a bit of a hackneyed metaphor about parents’ fears for bringing life into our real, damaging, and messed up world. Considering Krasinski and Blunt are married in real life it is worth dwelling on how much this film is an extension of their personal concerns.
in context A Quiet Place is doing something much greater in the industry
And while the thematic priorities of the film seek to justify the frankly bizarre decision, the result was jarring and lets down a film that otherwise triumphs on its finely attuned eye for logistical detail.
However, in context A Quiet Place is doing something much greater in the industry. It is representing the regeneration of horror as a serious genre worthy of the greatest accolades. With the likes of Oscar nominated Get Out and the remake of Stephen King’s It over the summer, well made horror, on a par with the year’s best films, is making a comeback. And, despite A Quiet Place’s flaws, it deserves recognition for the part it plays in the much desired resurgence.
Image: Paramount Pictures