Leaving the theatre after watching this horror-thriller, you may find yourself overwhelmed by the urge to just stand in the middle of the cineplex lobby and scream your head off.
After almost 90 minutes of enduring enforced silence along with the nuclear family at the movie’s centre, wanting to yell a little is understandable.
Simply because A Quiet Place, a modest production set in a post-apocalyptic world, is that effective at drawing you into the terror and suffering of its characters.
It’s not a completely silent film, of course – that would be too art-house for mass-market tastes. There is some dialogue, as well as a conventional music score and aural effects, mostly well utilised except perhaps during the many sudden shocks (more on those later).
Directed by John Krasinski (The Office’s resident nice guy Jim Halpert), A Quiet Place is set in the days after savage creatures, sightless but possessed of extremely sharp hearing, have made wastelands of the world’s nations.
Anyone who makes a sound is killed. I can imagine how Malaysian cineplexes became charnel houses in the early days of the apocalypse.
The film follows one family in its effort to survive – father Lee Abbott (Krasinski), mother Evelyn (Emily Blunt, aka Mrs Krasinski), daughter Regan (Millicent Simmonds) and son Marcus (Noah Jupe).
That, right there, is nearly the entire cast of the film. And like 10 Cloverfield Lane a couple of years ago, this small ensemble commands your attention throughout the piece with its compelling portrayal of lives lived in mortal fear.
And because they are so good at it, we become highly invested in their well-being.
No explanation is given for the creatures’ presence, and by now we have all sat through enough post-apocalyptic fare that we don’t need one – having grown adept at piecing together whatever explanation makes our respective inner conspiracy theorist happy.
All you need to enjoy this intensely suspenseful piece is … actually, to know as little as possible about it going in.
Krasinski and his co-writers Scott Beck and Bryan Woods do a nice job of scattering sufficient clues to let the viewer piece together just enough of the picture to not feel short-changed.
Not only clues about the world’s ruin, but about this family itself – their troubles and burdens, their particular set of survival skills, and even how a recent tragedy weighs heavily on all of them.
I give it high marks for respecting the viewer’s intelligence and appealing to our sentiments about family and sacrifice without getting maudlin.
Also, for not just focusing on the parents’ drive to protect their children, but on the children’s struggle to accept their roles and do some of the heavy lifting too, in spite of their fears.
But I also fault the writer-director-star for an over-reliance on jump scares, which tends to diminish the payoffs to the film’s more suspenseful moments that actually warrant such jolts.
Still, there are more than enough edge-of-the-seat moments to keep you squeezing your armrest anxiously as the characters find themselves in one deadly situation after another, almost without let-up, in the film’s second half.
Better yet – and without giving away spoilers, except that the creatures aren’t allergic to water – Krasinski wraps things up in a satisfying way.
Not neatly, with a bow on top, but certainly not the frustrating kind of ending that horror enthusiasts are constantly smacked in the head with.
And that is every bit as golden as silence.
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A Quiet Place
Director: John Krasinski
Cast: Emily Blunt, John Krasinski, Millicent Simmonds, Noah Jupe