A Quiet Place (2018) - Review : DJ MACK

Being a big fan of Emily Blunt, A Quiet Place has been on my radar since it was announced. If I'm honest, the trailers never grabbed me but Blunt's involvement already guaranteed that I would buy a ticket. A Quiet Place debuted at SXSW in March and was met with universal critical acclaim. Suddenly, my excitement skyrocketed. After watching, A Quiet Place is not what I expected at all; instead of being a film with endless cheap jump scares, it is an endurance test...in the best way possible. This creature feature is 90 minutes of tension and discomfort. It was not a film I enjoyed watching, but that is what Krasinski was going for. Krasinski shows signs of being a masterful director when it comes to the horror genre, effectively using classic genre tropes and turning them into something new. A Quiet Place is unsettling from the outset. Unless a film is a 'silent film', it is rare for one to grace the silver screen that includes minimal dialogue. This drastic difference (in comparison to other horror films) makes the audience feel uneasy. It was a genius idea to create a horror film that does not rely heavily on sound but instead turns sound into something to be afraid of. This helped heighten the loud noises that accompany the jump scares; I was also on the edge of my seat whenever a character accidentally made a loud sound, knowing the danger they just unlocked. Without much dialogue, most filmmakers would struggle to tell a compelling story that includes well-developed characters; Krasinski found a way. Krasinski effectively uses visual cues to notify the audience about important plot points. For example, in Lee's (Krasinski) office area, there are whiteboards stating that there are three known creatures within the parameter of their home; a close up of Evelyn's (Blunt) belly informs the audience that she is pregnant. I appreciated these little touches as it showed that Krasinski was aware of the limitations of telling a story without dialogue and was able to come up with solutions. The characters do lack development. However, in just 90 minutes, it would have been hard for Krasinski, Woods and Beck to thoroughly establish this family while also constructing tension and pulling off genuinely terrifying moments. The characters do abide by traditional archetypes and roles; the father is the protector, the mother looks after the house, and the children are brought up in accordance with their genders. I wish this was not the case as I would hope that these old-fashioned stereotypes do not exist in the near future. It could be argued that the characters lack development to allow the audience to easily empathise with them; they do not have any special skills or unique characteristics, they are an everyday family thrown into an unimaginable situation. Although I was not thinking of how I would cope with the situation presented while watching, it has certainly been on my mind since.
The film's plot is set up well. Potential plot holes are solved with satisfying explanations. Some audience members may wonder why even the slightest sound does not trigger the monsters. However, Lee and Marcus (Jupe) have a verbal conversation about this where Lee explains that it is only big sounds that cause danger and if there is a natural loud noise, such as a river flowing, they can safely talk. The early death of Beau (Cade Woodward) was also necessary and important to the film's plot. It showed the characters, and the audience, that there are genuine stakes and that nobody is safe. It also reinforced the importance of following the rules. However, the characters still do make typical 'horror movie mistakes'; why did Regan (Simmonds) give the electronic rocket back to Beau? and why did Beau think it was a good idea to put the batteries back in? The only good thing about this silly mistake was that it made each of the characters feel emotionally responsible and allowed us, the audience, to get this great movie. Even though the occasional stupidity of the characters is a flaw of the film, this particular example becomes exempt when Regan runs away to return the rocket to Beau's grave. This was kind of a full circle moment and showed that she felt guilty.
Emily Blunt seems to gravitate towards films that are adept at constructing tension. Sicario builds tension throughout, including many uncomfortable moments. A Quiet Place may just do it better. The first half of the film is slow-paced (I worry mainstream audiences may check out at this point) and while on the surface it feels like nothing is happening, in retrospect the first half sets up the fall-out of the second half of the film perfectly. Even when the family are following their rules I was still on-edge knowing that soon enough they would make a mistake. I would actually compare the structure of the film to mother!; hopefully A Quiet Place is a bigger crowd pleaser, but both films juxtapose a slow first half with an alarming and disturbing second half. The film uses the domino effect well; things are set up but then become relevant and important later on. For example, when the washing gets caught on a pin in the stairs and then Evelyn steps on the pin (this moment had the whole audience gasping) and when the creature breaks out of the sand pit, leaving an escape route for the children. Based on what critics have been saying, I was expecting A Quiet Place to be one of the scariest films I have ever seen. I'll admit that films like The Conjuring have scared me more, but I believe A Quiet Place is not trying to scare the audience in the same way as supernatural horrors. I cannot imagine anyone being able to enjoy watching A Quiet Place; a film has not made me feel so tense for a long time. A Quiet Place includes many jump-scares and I think all of them shocked me. The type of horror in this film reminded me of what scared audiences in the past; Krasinski definitely took inspiration from Jurassic Park, Alien and Jaws. If you enjoy the films I just listed but are cautious about seeing this one because it has been marketed as a super scary horror, I think you should watch A Quiet Place; they do not make horror movies like this anymore. Without spoiling anything, one of my favourite sequences was when Evelyn goes into labour as the creatures invade her house. Imagine that traumatic experience!?! Trying to stay quiet while feeling uncontrollable pain! The stakes were also raised as it was not just one life on the line, but two. This is an example of Krasinski, Woods and Beck torturing their characters (physically and emotionally); I think this is the most extreme worst nightmare for any expecting mother. There appears to be layers to A Quiet Place; the writers seem to be making commentary on parenthood. Using this same sequence, the threat of the creatures could represent the fears and dangers that many expecting mothers face during pregnancy (they represent their inner demons). None of the characters escape the film unscathed, the writers have sick minds! A Quiet Place is a scary film. It does not rely on cheap scares, it earns every single fearful reaction from the audience.
The majority of the film only includes four characters: Lee, Evelyn, Marcus and Regan. A Quiet Place features some stellar performances, nobody disappoints. Emily Blunt is fantastic; one of her many specialities is pulling a scared/worried/sad facial expression. She does it in The Girl on the Train, Sicario and here, she finally gets to act like this in a horror film (couldn't be more appropriate!). Blunt is convincingly petrified throughout and delivers an emotional (and maternal) performance. Blunt's performance may just become the modern face of fear. Sometimes when directing, writing and starring in a film, it is the acting that suffers. However, the power and control that John Krasinski had over this film clearly did not go to his head as he still gives a strong performance. Without dialogue, he feels like a strong, protective and caring father who will do anything to look after his family. There is a crucial moment for his character that was very moving and powerful; Krasinski's performance, writing and direction all achieve this. The chemistry between Blunt and Krasinski was great (which should be expected from a real-life couple!); from the way they looked at each other, you could feel the love. There is a scene where the couple shares a dance which was a beautiful final moment before everything goes wrong. It can be tricky when real-life couples work together on films but Blunt and Krasinski pull it off. The performances from Noah Jupe and Millicent Simmonds were also good; both had their share of annoying moments but like their parents, they were convincingly terrified. There was only one performance I did not like and that was Leon Russom as the random man in the woods; I do not think his brief appearance was necessary and he gave a very unbelievable scream of terror (he literally only had one job and messed up!). Finally, A Quiet Place was made for just $17 million but the creatures look like they belong in a film with a much bigger budget. They were well realised and are scary to look at. They also make a horrible sound that will send chills down your spine! It was refreshing to see a horror/monster film that satisfies with the appearance of the creatures. In The Ritual, the creature is hinted at throughout and is only revealed, in full, at the end. However, A Quiet Place gives the audience a full look at the creatures all the way through. Their design is a little derivative of similar creatures in Stranger Things and Alien but they still looked very good. High brow horror. A Quiet Place is a different league to solid scary flicks like Happy Death Day and next week's Truth or Dare. Krasinski has made a name for himself in the horror genre with A Quiet Place, I am eager to see what he directs next (I hope it is another horror!). Although I did not leave the cinema scarred with fear, I felt tense, uncomfortable, scared and sad throughout the 90-minute run-time. This may be a 2018 horror film but it also works as a valentine to horror movies of the past; it is a return to the roots of the genre...with a modern twist. A Quiet Place is a creature-feature combined with a home invasion which is a mix that works incredibly well! Emily Blunt adds yet another terrific performance to her resume, and this film may just be one of her strongest yet! Who knew a horror film lacking dialogue and much noise would be so effective? The tension is relentless, A Quiet Place is one of the finest horror efforts in recent years.

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