As cinematic depictions of a post-apocalyptic near-future become more and more bleak, you almost wonder if survival would even be worth it. Then you witness the against-all-odds resilience of one family in A Quiet Place, and suddenly the future seems brighter.
Maybe that’s overstating it. After all, this is only a modestly creepy low-budget thriller with some clever twists and effective frights that stays committed to its simple if provocative concept, and therefore surpasses many of its genre brethren.
As suggested by the title, it takes place in a society where talking is practically forbidden and loud noises are an invitation for ruthless alien creatures to attack. The film doesn’t provide much context in its gradual revelation of the predicament involving one rural family that must live in virtual silence — communicating primarily via sign language.
That’s because blind, long-limbed monsters are hunting humans, of which there are very few left, by sound. Lee (John Krasinski) has turned the basement into a laboratory in which he’s been trying to find long-term survival solutions for more than a year. Evelyn (Emily Blunt) is pregnant with the couple’s fourth child.
In addition to the imminent danger, the family is coping with the aftermath of a tragedy, with the resulting guilt driving a wedge between Lee and daughter Regan (Millicent Simmonds), who also happens to be deaf. But it’s only a matter of time until the danger reaches their doorstep.
Krasinski also directed and co-wrote the film, mostly avoiding jump scares and intrusive music swells as a cheap method of manipulating audience unease.
The small cast rises to the challenge of acting virtually without dialogue, relying heavily on facial expressions and body language to convey emotion. Maybe it helps that Krasinski and Blunt are married in real life, and that Simmonds (Wonderstruck) is actually hearing-impaired.
At any rate, the film excels at depicting the details of the family’s day-to-day coping mechanisms, such as attempts at normalcy through home-schooling, communication shortcuts when things get hairy, and methods for restocking food and supplies.
For those who buy in, A Quiet Place is an intense and inventive horror exercise that overcomes some narrative contrivances and logical gaps by effectively exploiting common audience fears. Now if only overzealous moviegoers would join the characters and just shut up.