SXSW 2018: A Quiet Place Review – As Emotionally Powerful as It Is Terrifying
Written by Scott Beck, Bryan Woods, John Krasinski
Directed by John Krasinski
The kinds of horror films that impact me the most are the ones that actually make me care about the characters. It’s why films like IT, Alien, and The Conjuring struck such a chilling chord in my bones. When the characters of those films encountered danger, my heart raced because I felt like I knew them, that I was a part of their unit. To have the possibility that this close-knit group could somehow be broken apart was anathema to me. Enter A Quiet Place.
Co-written and directed by John Krasinski, the film follows a family who are attempting to survive in a post-apocalyptic world in which aliens have landed on Earth and are killing everyone they find via sound. The survivors of this new world must live in silence so as to not become victims themselves.
The nameless family sees Krasinski as the father, Blunt as the mother, Jupe as their son, and Simmonds as their daughter, who is deaf and wears a non-functioning cochlear implant. While the film starts approximately 3 months after society has collapsed, the vast majority of it takes place nearly 1-1/2 years later. Due to a tragedy seen early in the film, there is a strain in the relationships among nearly everyone, although they do their best to hide it. It all stems from a shocking event, one that has long-lasting implications and becomes central to the story and the emotional character development of the family. I don’t want to give away too much because the joy of A Quiet Place is that every new revelation only adds to the tension of their circumstances, masterfully creating a film where the tension ramps up a notch with each scene, never letting up for even a moment. It’s one of the rare times in a theater when I found myself forgetting to breathe because of fear.
While the film may have 100 words, give or take, spoken aloud, Simmonds’ deafness allows for ASL to be used throughout, letting the family communicate and for us to be a part of the conversation. The love and devotion they have for one another is magnified through their expressions, their movements, and their genuine care. It’s clear that the cast grew extremely close through the filming of this movie because their chemistry is palpable.
Krasinski, who admitted in a post-screening Q&A that he is actually scared by horror films, expertly crafts each scene so as to squeeze every bit of emotion or terror – and often both – out of them. When danger is present, it is not an incidental or laughable moment. The monsters in this film are vicious, their threat undeniable and their presence deeply unsettling. Every time the family came face-to-face with one of these creatures, I found myself gripping my armrests until my knuckles were white or I covered my mouth with my hands, my breath caught in my throat.
Marco Beltrami’s score and the movie’s sound design are used to maximum effect. Since there is a lack of spoken dialogue, A Quiet Place has to make up for it in other areas; and it does so magnificently in the audio department. The sounds the creatures emit are foreign and frightening, sounding like nothing I’ve ever heard before.
At the SXSW world premiere, Krasinski sat in attendance. Sitting two rows and over a couple of seats behind me, I turned back at one point to see his face when the audiences was gasping and screaming. Slouched down so as to not block the view of those behind him, Krasinski’s grin went from ear-to-ear, his joy unmistakable… and well-deserved.
One of the most inventive, emotional, and terrifying films I’ve seen in a long time, A Quiet Place is destined to be recognized as one of the greatest horror films of this generation.