The genre of horror is not particularly well-known for stylistic innovation. Most films tend to focus on jump scares and cheap thrills over any semblance of a realistic story or unique cinematography, which is why John Krasinski’s “A Quiet Place” (2018) comes as such a shock. Not only is it able to remain truly and delightfully scary, but also the movie itself is a work of art, masterfully using silence to enhance everything from the plot to the character development. Because of the cast’s overall outstanding performance, audiences become invested in the characters, and this allows the movie to overcome horror cliches while also rendering it terrifying.
The film is set in 2020 and follows a family who struggles to stay alive in the face of otherworldly danger. The world has been overrun with mysterious creatures that hunt humans and are seemingly impervious to damage. There is a catch, however: The creatures rely overwhelmingly on sound. If you can stay quiet, you can stay alive. As the movie progresses, the family must navigate the challenges of communicating without sound, dealing with emotional differences and even making it through a pregnancy, all while trying to avoid a gruesome death.
If you thought a movie couldn’t be done without spoken dialogue, “A Quiet Place” will quickly prove you dead wrong. While it’s true that there are only around three minutes of spoken dialogue over the film’s hour and a half runtime, the cast portrays meaningful, realistic and deep connections with each other all while using only American Sign Language to communicate.
Krasinski, who wrote, directed and produced the movie in addition to acting in it, is the father of the Abbott family, struggling to protect his family in a world gone completely to hell. As the film reaches its climax, his declaration of love for his children and his total vulnerability is one of the movie’s best scenes. His wife, played by Emily Blunt, gives one of her most excruciatingly human performances, and audiences will pray for her survival throughout the movie.
Even the children deliver performances that are well above average. Cade Woodward as the youngest son is adorable and heartbreaking, while Noah Jupe as the middle child shows what it’s like to grow up living in constant fear of everything around you. But it’s Millicent Simmonds as the oldest child who shines the brightest; not only is the actress deaf in real life, adding another layer of depth to the film, but her feelings of guilt and teenage angst are so believable it feels as though she is in the theater with you. Every single cast member adds a meaningful layer to the family dynamic, but together, the five of them deliver a knockout performance.
Another highlight of the movie lies in its ability to make the audience as deathly quiet as the characters themselves. The lack of sound, which creates an atmosphere laden with dread, spills out from the screen into each viewer. You have to see “A Quiet Place” in a crowded theater — every crunch of popcorn, every restless shift in your seat, is magnified due to the way the movie paralyzes the audience into silence. If you make a sound, it truly feels like the creatures will somehow hear it and descend upon the Abbott family, creating an immersive experience simply through the lack of spoken words. Of course, there are also moments where the film erupts with sound, and this contrast between silence and deafening noise works incredibly well. The way “A Quiet Place” plays with sound is its best strength; every noise seems deliberately thought out, and this draws the viewer in and traps them there until the closing credits roll.
In addition to the lack of spoken dialogue, the film’s score is beautifully orchestrated in the way it punctuates moments of emotional action with crescendos of chilling terror. It fades into the background in the best possible way, enhancing the performance without being obtrusive. Similarly, the cinematography is well done, giving enough background information on the creatures without explaining too much, and the wide-angled shots of the Abbott’s farm are beautiful while also highlighting how alone the family really is. Even the CGI and special effects are masterfully done. The creatures themselves are alien and horrifying to look at, down to the most specific details — the way they salivate in the presence of the family is disgustingly realistic. There truly aren’t any glaring weaknesses in the movie. While it struggles with cliches at times, and while parts of the scarce spoken dialogue feel unrealistic, overall the experience is one of pure and thrilling fear.
It is beyond refreshing to see a horror movie succeed in overcoming the genre’s tired tropes, and “A Quiet Place” managed to create a viewing experience that exceeded my wildest expectations. You must see this movie — it is perhaps the best horror film in years.