Just like the genre-exercises that have come before it in recent years like Get Out, Don’t Breathe and It Follows, A Quiet Place uses the premise of its B-grade villains to upend clichés and put on one of the best horror shows this year. John Krasinski directs and stars in the movie, which boils down to one very long and bad day for a family living in isolation after the end of the world.
The world has been brought down by a race of indestructible creatures with large pincers, razor teeth and armor-plated skin. They’re quick, strong and agile, but they’re also completely blind. So, lucky us, the only way to survive is by staying completely silent – which means no talking, no loud footsteps and no chewing with your mouth open. Make a single wrong sound and they’ll hear you from miles away and cut you down where you stand. The film takes place years after civilisation has fallen and when Krasinski and the rest of the Abbott family is introduced, you can see they’ve only managed to stay alive so long thanks to Krasinski’s muscled and bearded-up Lee, whose only goal has been to get his family through each day. If you only remember Krasinski as the skinny and loveable Jim Halpert from The Office, then you’ll be shocked at his transformation into the Bear Grylls type uber-dad he appears as here. But both he and his real-life wife Emily Blunt are extremely well suited to the roles of parents who just want to keep their children safe. And in a movie where everyone is mostly communicating through sign language, their big emotive eyes go a long way to selling the terror they’re experiencing onscreen.
The use of sound – or the lack of sound – in the film is a really powerful tool to get you squirming in your seat. If you’re lucky to see it in a theatre where nobody’s checking their phone or scrounging through chip packets in particularly tense moments, then this might be one of the best nail-biters to watch on the big screen. I even had to catch myself from holding my own breath in the hopes I could save the Abbotts from being noticed.
In a fair few horror films, the big bad is only as entertaining as how the victims fall into their hands, and this is often made easy from people making stupid decisions – or their own actions being the cause of their death. In A Quiet Place you’ll put yourself in the shoes of the Abbotts and struggle to think how you might do it better. They are victims to their own decisions, but when those decisions are involuntary gasps of pain or snapping branches in the woods, it’s easy to be more optimistic and will them to succeed where most horrors would have you looking to see how they fail. The Abbott’s main enemy isn’t alien creatures; it’s their ability to stay quiet and that’s something we can all relate to.
It’s also a testament to the world Krasinski builds in just an hour and a half that the scraps of newspaper clippings that boast “IT’S SOUND” from headlines when the world fell are so interesting to catch glimpses of. I want to know when these creatures started attacking, where they came from and how long it took for the world to fall. But the film benefits tremendously from having such a narrow scope of view, only caring what the family sees and does – you really get a sense of who this family is and why they’ve managed to survive for so long, which goes a long way to getting you to care about them yourself. In place of answers about the world-at-large, this is an extremely tense and slickly directed horror that manages to out-do the classic monster-movie trappings you might be used to. Once it gets going, you’ll be split between the edge of your seat and hiding behind your hands, so just remember to breath and you’ll be fine.
A Quiet Place is in cinemas now.