You could argue that sound is the most important aspect of them all when it comes to the horror genre, evoking fear amongst the audience more so than anything else. Which is what makes John Krasinski’s A Quiet Place such an intriguing production, for sound is the most prominent narrative device, transpiring in a distinctively muted endeavour (much like the title suggests). Yet by removing the sound, it makes it even more prominent, for when things go bump in the night, boy can we hear it.
The premise is simple; set in a dystopian future, aliens have taken over the planet and while they seem impossible to defeat, they do have a weakness – they’re blind. This means they only attack when they can hear people, and so we delve into the survival of a particular family, consisting of Lee (Krasinski), Evelyn (Emily Blunt) and their three children. They can’t make a noise, for if they do, they’ll be killed, which tragically proves to be the case when their youngest child is killed. Heartbroken and empty they have an obligation to each other to stay alive, and stay quiet. But that’s somewhat more challenging than it sounds, particularly when Evelyn becomes pregnant.
There’s an everyday quality about this family that allows for the viewer to resonate with the tale and invest more so in their survival. Their vulnerability is heightened and enriched by the fact that Evelyn is pregnant, and then subsequently when they have a newborn child to protect (a baby that doesn’t quite understand the notion of staying silent). Plus there’s the eldest daughter Regan (Millicent Simmonds) who is deaf, and with a broken hearing aid. This is a great addition to this tale for she isn’t aware when she’s making noise, adding a dangerous sense of the unknown to her arc, as she is blissfully unaware when she may be at risk. Krasinski uses an effective technique too when we adopt her perspective and the sound is muffled as we embody the character, placing us in her shoes, unable to hear a thing.
The film is unrelenting too, and while the opening act is unnervingly calm, it’s evidently before the storm, for when that hits there’s no going back. The final, intense hour of this movie doesn’t let off and offers little respite to the viewer, who may well feel traumatised by whole affair. On a negative note, we’re subject, far too frequently, to the monsters themselves, and while the design of the creatures is impressive, they’re always scarier in our imaginations. Don’t show us the monster. It’s reminiscent of Signs when we see the aliens and they look like something Matt Stone and Trey Parker had drawn.
There are similarities to the work of M. Night Shyamalan too, except without any fear of a contrived twist at the close of play. This is a compelling film of that there is no doubt, and the sound design is incredible, but regrettably it does fall into the tropes of the horror genre a little too easily, and while subverting expectations at times, it lacks ingenuity in others.
A Quiet Place is released on April 6th.