'A Quiet Place'

If Alien and Don’t Breathe had a secret lovechild, it would be A Quiet Place.

Executive producer, writer, director and star of the film John Krasinski steps out from his familiar archetype as a comedic lead and brings forth his third directional feature in the form of A Quiet Place. Still a relative newcomer, Krasinski solidifies himself as an astute, young talent through his knowledge of film language, subtlety and the art of tension. Through, literally, relentless suspense and inspired perfomances, A Quiet Place could very well go down as one of the finest films of 2018.

Time needn’t be wasted on backstory, and the film agrees with that sentiment. From the first frame, the tension is in full effect. Krasinski appreciates the audience’s intelligence, refusing to bog the film down in ham-fisted summations, rather getting right into the action in which the audience can play along with the dead-silent characters. This is another fun part of the film that should prove engaging to some, and at least effective to most.

Krasinski is partnered on screen with his off-screen wife Emily Blunt, which arguably adds to the authenticity and quality of their performances. One can wonder if this choice was intentional on part of Krasinski for the sake of gauging more genuine emotions from the performances, or if it was simply for convenience sake. Nonetheless, the couple perform extraordinarily well in their mostly non-verbal roles. A keynote scene involves Emily Blunt’s character in the midst of childbirth as a nefarious creature looms nearby. It’s stellar. Krasinski pulls the suspense strings with a profound discipline, exploiting from you every last bit of anxiety your conscious can handle. The feeling of danger neverleaves. Not one moment of the film poses any promise of sustained security for the characters, resulting in a roller coaster of ever-present tension. This is brought forth by the cast, as well as Krasinski’s consideration for cinematography and sound design.

Contemporary horror suffers from a number of pitfalls, but perhaps one of the most notable is the lack of attention toward the aesthetic. Too often, the audience is mentally bludgeoned with boring locations, so-so cinematography, and hardly any focus on the sound design (minus a shriek sound to emphasize a jump scare). A Quiet Place refuses to slip into these same pitfalls. Particularly in regards to sound design, of course, the film excels. In this film, even the crunch of a leaf is akin to a stampede. The heart drop one may feel at the sound of a squeaky aluminum door allows that roller coaster feeling to ring true. Kraskinski astutely uses sound as a weapon in this film to violate any sense of security the characters, and the audience can find. The cinematography (Charlotte Bruus Christensen) doesn’t as effective as the sound design, however, there are a few impressive displays worth noting. One scene in particular emphasizes red hues which one can only surmise was designed to give the audience a visceral feeling of hell.  While this particular scene is a highlight of a suspenseful film, there may be one flaw worth mentioning.

It’s no secret that there are nefarious creatures prowling about in this film. The good news is we aren’t subjected to long-winded explanations of what they are or where they’re from. The bad news is that these creatures are seemingly omnipresent to a confusing extent. For one, these creatures are predatory only for the sake of inconveniencing the characters. They don’t feed (it appears) and also don’t seem intelligent enough to hunt for sport or any exterior purpose. Even the Xenomorphs, as animalistic as they are characterized, seem much more instinctual in their nature. These beings only seem to be concerned with starving themselves out of existence, killing anything or anyone that makes a sound, but not for self-preservation. Neither do they seem advanced enough to be carrying out some kind of coup of planet Earth. Additionally, a major WTF moment dawns upon the viewer regarding these noise-sensitive creatures, and that has to do with consistency.

These creatures, who can apparently hear anything above a dull whisper, seem to be really picky about when they can hear things: like fireworks. Seriously. How are we to believe that these things can flock in the droves toward a lone gunshot, presumably from miles away, but are nowhere to be found when an arsenal of fireworks blasts over the night sky? Maybe they were on coffee break for that scene. In an otherwise stellar showcase of terror, this stands out as the one clear blemish. This, however, should only serve as a micro-frustration for viewers who will be much more concerned with the characters’ fates (as well as dealing with anxiety issues from the suspense).

Surprise: A Quiet Place is worthy of its acclaim. Disobeying the tropes of modern horror, John Krasinski crafts a uniquely suspenseful film, forbidding the audience of much relief and instead keeping the foot on their throats for its ninety-minute entirety. Partner that with some strong performances, as well as some creepy creature design, and you very well might be looking at what will be among the best films of the year. It would be foolish to liken Krasinski as a master of horror so hastily, but given the success of this film, perhaps he should aim to be.

***/****