Silence is golden, seriously. (Spoiler free)

A_Quiet_Place_film_poster

A Quiet Place is a new horror/thriller that has become the darling of critics and audiences. After an alien invasion, almost all of society appears to have been wiped out. The aliens are blind, but have incredibly powerful hearing. If you make a sound they will come and clobber you. Aside from having to stay quiet to survive, fighting back doesn’t seem to be an option as the aliens are covered in a thick armor.

We follow the Abbot clan through various interludes of the destroyed world. We begin at day 89, where their young son is killed due to playing with a toy. After this, we jump about a year later (and then another minor jump, which seemed less necessary). Evelyn (Emily Blunt) is pregnant now, and Lee (John Krasinski—who also directed) is working to prepare the home for the new noise maker. Their other children, including deaf Regan (Millicent Simmonds—who is deaf in real life) and Marcus (Noah Jupe) are still dealing with the trauma of losing their brother.

I am always a little nervous when a film is showered with praise. I find that films that are often said to be so great just meet a lot of basic competencies and kind of trick us into thinking they are something greater than what they actually are. To be honest, I am not certain where I stand on this one. I have mulled over the film for a couple days, which is something I usually don’t do for this blog (I think first impressions are a better gauge of actual enjoyment for movie-goers), but alas, here we are. The film has a lot of good stuff going for it, but there are some things that did detract from the experience.

First off, the acting is excellent. Everyone does an admirable job conveying emotion with almost no dialogue. One thing I love about this film is that Krasinksi had an interesting idea for the setting, and he carries this vision through. The actors are forced to operate without sound—and this makes for an interesting experience. We can tell that these people love each other, even if they are all going through different stages of grief and guilt. The genuine nature of the characters makes this film better than most horror films.

I think the camera work, lighting, settings, and almost all of the technical stuff is fantastic. However, the biggest success is the sound. Small noises are cranked up so we feel the anxiety as well. Dropping a photo frame becomes something potentially deadly here, and the loud crash of the initial drop and the bouncing pieces of glass make your heart sink. The film does an admirable job at building tension at almost every moment.

Where the film does not work as well is an overabundance of jump scares. We get too many of these for a film of this caliber. A raccoon falling off the roof, people grabbing each other, and so on. Each time I saw a cheap jump scare I was pulled out of the film. These loud and pointless moments are meant to ramp tension up, but they just reminded me that I was watching a film. The tense moments work on their own without the aid of these pointless exercises. The entire experience would have been tighter if all of these were edited out.

Perhaps the weakest aspect of the film is the inconsistencies with what the monsters can hear and do. Stomping sends then running, but they can’t hear over water dripping—which seems a little weird. I found myself wondering what the limitations of these creatures were. Further, it is hard to see how so much of what the family accomplished was possible if the creatures are so sensitive—or, if they can be easily fooled, what is the problem? Another annoying issue for me was that the monsters always seem close by—how many are there? Why do they hide/know how to hide if they are blind?

These questions make getting sucked into the narrative completely a little difficult. We see dozens of newspapers chronicling the invasion, the defeat of the military, and the realization that they hunt by sound. How were these papers printed? I would have had an easier time believing someone could climb up on a billboard and paint “It is sound” more than somehow papers being printed/distributed.

In the end, we have a well-made and interesting movie that is sometimes hurt by the difficulty in making this movie make sense. I understand the role of the newspapers, for example, and not having them might have hurt audience contextualization, but having them hurt audience engagement. Krasinski is certainly one to watch, though, and I am curious to see where he goes from here. 7.5/10

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