A Quiet Place proves a movie doesn’t have to be loud to grab a hold of its audience.
No talking during the movie.
A Quiet Place is a horror movie with a simple but brilliant premise — make a noise, and you’ll be eaten by a monster. It follows a family of five as they try to survive in a 2016 small town that has been otherwise completely scraped of human life. They tiptoe barefoot across each creaky wooden step and communicate mostly in sign language.
It’s a marked career move for John Krasinski. This is The Office prankster’s second time directing, and even though he’s taken serious roles before, it still feels new to see him play it straight.
He has confidence as a director for his second go-around. The deafeningly silent opening scene immediately draws all breath out of the theater, daring you to crunch your popcorn or crinkle your candy bar wrapper. There’s a fragile silence on screen and in the theater seats, one that bares scary implications if broken.
The world-building is fast and well-executed. There’s fear in every actor’s eyes — Krasinski puts a lot of trust in younger actors Cade Woodard, Noah Jupe and Millicent Simmonds, the latter of whom is deaf and plays a deaf character. They open the movie — Woodard’s Beau dreams of escaping, drawing a rocket in the dust on the floor of the abandoned convenience store they are raiding. He goes after a toy rocket on a high shelf — it falls, and Simmonds’ Regan catches it before it clatters on the tiled floor, chest heaving in terror. Immediately, there’s a sense of foreboding in every frame. The smallest mistakes have the highest consequences.
It also stars Krasinki’s real-life wife Emily Blunt, whose participation in a project more or less guarantees quality. Avoiding spoilers, Blunt gets the film’s most spine-chilling beats, and elevates every scene she’s in. At this point in her career, that’s obvious.
The muted scenes are so intense that the calmer moments are much-needed relief. As soon as the characters are safe, Krasinski allows music to play — Marco Beltrami’s string-powered soundtrack is used sparsely but effectively. Viewers in my theater relaxed, shifting in their seats from their taut positions, the movie finally allowing them to crunch their candy again. The characters’ danger reaches through the screen. That’s a sign of a good movie.
One thing all good horror movies know is that character moments can’t be sacrificed for more scares. It’s a tight 95 minutes, but the screenplay (written by Krasinski, Bryan Woods and Scott Beck) ensures we care about the characters, and not just the situations they’re in. The setpieces are already good. Krasinski is smart enough to know how to make them echo.
The $17 million project cranked up an ear-splitting $50 million opening weekend, the second highest of the year. It has the perfect storm of good reviews, intriguing premise and deafening word of mouth going for it. In a theatrical landscape that will soon be overtaken by nothing but loud, a smaller hit like this speaks volumes. ••