“A Quiet Place” is hand-to-your-mouth terrifying

Nutshell: Director John Krasinski’s first big-budget feature length film shows that he’s a force to be reckoned with. And this high-caliber story about a family trying to stay alive and safe after a monster invasion is equally powerful.  Grade: A

“IT’S SOUND!” – newspaper headline

Story: In a (hopefully) alternate year 2020, monsters that hunt by sound have decimated humanity. The small number of survivors include the Abbott family, who have turned their farm into as safe a place as possible. But how safe can they be, when every movement has a chance of betraying them?

Genre I’d put it in: Top Notch Silent Killer Cinema

Remake, Sequel, Based-On, or Original: Original

Gotta say: I want to clarify something first; I’ll be using the term “monsters” in this review, because Quiet never really lets us know exactly how these things became such a threat.  Alien life form?  Lab creation run amok? Rift in the wibbly-wobbly timey-wimey stuff? I may have missed a bit of exposition here and there, but I’ma go with monsters.  ‘Kay? ‘Kay.  But in the end it really doesn’t matter, because Quiet is amazing.

From the whipsmart screenplay to the use of edits and long shots, Quiet is a story that is definitely horror – when have you ever seen me shy away from that genre term? But the “monsters gonna get us” story is bolstered by themes of family, support, and connection.  The Abbotts have been through hell, and the family has become a tight knit unit because of the love they have, and what they’ve gone through. Is it all sunshine and rainbows?  No. And that there’s sturm und drang even during the monster apocalypse makes the family feel believable.  It doesn’t hurt that the performances are spectacular.  I think there might be approximately ten minutes of spoken dialogue in the entire film, and that’s being generous. That these actors are able to convey the story is remarkable intoday’s Super Sound Spectacular Multiplex Awesomeness era.  I thought of silent movie stars, but these performances are more nuanced.  Not that I’m pinging silent era actors, the weren’t gifted with HD video.

Then there’s the story itself. A story where monsters hunt you by sound, and one of the characters is deaf?  Brilliant idea.  Plus, it made me really worry for daughter Regan (the wonderfully talented Millicent Simmonds, who happens to be deaf in real life), as she’s unable to hear the sound she makes.  Brrr, I get chills even thinking about it. Regan has a cochlear implant, but it no longer works.  Father Lee (Krasinski) constantly works on replacements for Regan’s transmitter, but so far nothing has worked. Regan believes Lee doesn’t understand how those constant failures hurt her emotionally, but Lee can’t stop trying to help her. It’s a touching bit of dramatic irony in a film full of suspense and dread.

I love John Krasinski.  He’s shown his range from The Office to 13 Hours.  He’s one of those actors that makes me perk up whenever a film has him listed as part of its cast. And I love that he and Emily Blunt are married IRL.  Not that it makes a difference in this film, but I think they’re adorable.  And as Evelyn and Lee Abbot in Quiet, they’re adorable, and convincing as parents trying to keep their children safe in a horrifying situation. That Krasinski is able to deliver such an emotional performance while pulling double duty as the film’s director is impressive.  Typically one half suffers (sorry Sofia Coppola.)  But Krasinski goes on my actor/director list right next to Tom Hanks, Charlie Chaplin and George Clooney.

I love Emily Blunt.  From The Devil Wears Prada to Edge of Tomorrow to My Little Pony: The Movie (duh, I love MLP), Blunt has a way of embodying her characters that is truly outstanding.  She’s just as amazing here, but with the added extra of her character Evelyn rarely being able to speak. The raw emotion on her face – and body language she uses – conveys more than a slew of other horror movie performers could muster on their best days.

Let’s dig into the monsters, shall we? The monsters are merciless.  And while the gore is kept low-key, it’s still shocking and horrific. The monster FX are very well done, reminding me of Stranger Things, Tremors, and even touches of Cthulhu here and there.  Krasinski doles out peeks in snippets, so the audience gets a limb here, some teeth there, an arched back elsewhere.  The big reveal is saved for the end, and it’s glorious.  Plus, I like how the monsters are designed, with huge ear canals that make it easy to understand why sound is their go-to. The camera even zooms in on those ear parts, to let us see exactly how they function.  It’s fascinating and creepy.

Krasinski obviously has talent as a director. Now the question is; when can I see more from him?

#Protip: Wonder how cochlear implants work?  So did I. Luckily, the NIH has the answer.

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