A QUIET PLACE. Starring: Emily Blunt, John Krasinski, Millicent Simmonds, and Noah Jupe. Directed by John Krasinski. Rated M (Horror themes and violence). 90 min.
This American horror film tells the story of four members of a family, who live in fear of being attacked by alien animal creatures that attack immediately on hearing sound. Emily Blunt, who takes the lead role in the film, is married to the movie’s director, John Krasinski, who takes the role of her husband in the movie.
The film starts on Day 89 on a ravaged earth. The family live an isolated existence on a farm in the woods, and they struggle to survive against the aliens who live in the forest around them. The creatures who live there have laid waste to human civilisation, and they locate their victims by sound, not sight. To escape attack, the family is forced to live in complete silence.
The parents communicate in sign language with themselves and their children. They do their best to give their children a normal life, but they know that is unlikely to happen without sound. All the members of the family are plagued by the terror that the alien creatures bring. Viewers are introduced to the horror by seeing huge claw marks scratched into the wood panels inside the family house. Then we see more of the creatures, or at least the signs of their presence, and as the tension escalates members of the family have to spend every minute of their lives keeping the creatures at bay.
This is not a movie that aims to capture viewers’ attention by scenes of menacing ghosts or apparitions jumping out of the background to repeatedly reveal themselves in startling fashion, or furniture being mysteriously moved by strange forces to the accompaniment of creepy music. It is not that kind of film. The context of dread is revealed “quietly”, almost stealthily, in complete harmony with the plot-line. Dread escalates through the actions of the family, almost as much as through the behaviour of the creatures themselves. Everything that seems normal for a family takes on potential threat, because it could cause sound. The family members are even forced to mark the boards in their house that creak, or make unexpected noises, so that they can step over them, in case the worst happens.
Character development in this film is one of its strengths, which is not usual for a lot of movies in the horror genre (“Winchester”, 2018, for example). We see the effects of terror on everyday lives, and both parents and children cooperatively learn strategies over time on how best to survive, and grow to understand each other better.
Emily Blunt wants to ensure that her children grow up “fully thinking” and she fights against the forces trying to ensure they don’t. John Krasinski, the father of the family, just wants to get his wife and children (and himself) through unscathed each day. Millicent Simmonds plays the family’s deaf daughter. Her role gives the plot-line a nice twist by presenting us with a character who is unable to hear the sounds that the creatures can’t bear to hear. Noah Jupe plays her brother in the film, who, in contrast to his sister, hears perfectly well.
Within the horror genre, the movie makes a compelling case for loving parenthood. These parents go to extraordinary lengths to protect their children, and one dies in the attempt. Further, the film tells us that parents should participate completely in what their children are doing and thinking, not just close their ears (and eyes) to what could be happening.
This is a very clever horror movie with a plot line that works remarkably well. It is impressively directed and acted, and it develops its tension well. It takes an ingenious idea, expands it by integrating it coherently into the plot-line, and builds character development scarily around it. It is unquestionably a film in the horror genre, with violence and horror predictably on show (should sounds occur), but it is tolerably M, which means the violence is mostly indirect. Essentially, this is a classy horror movie that demonstrates the potential for terror that lies lurking in ordinary events.
Peter W. Sheehan is Associate of the Australian Catholic Office for Film and Broadcasting
Released April 5th., 2018