Horror has a tendency to undergo periods of stagnant complacency relying on tired tropes and redundant imitations of whatever is successful at the time. Recently, however, we have seen a resurgence and ironically, this movement has been spearheaded by people who are most well known for their work outside the genre. Jordan Peele surprised everyone last year with his breakout hit Get Out, and John Krasinski, most recognizable from The Office, tries his hand at horror with A Quiet Place. Focusing on creatures who attack based on sound puts a great deal of trust in its audience’s patience as it ambitiously creates a mandatory necessity for constant silence throughout. In doing so, A Quiet Place separates itself from the trappings of its mainstream contemporaries by placing emphasis on building genuine tension to evoke fear rather than cheap jump scares.
The opening prologue so expertly establishes the state of the world in which our characters inhabit and the means by which they need to survive. This wordless introduction demonstrates Krasinski’s capable grasp on the language of film and his ability to craft a slow-paced, methodical, suspense thriller. Characters are forced to communicate through sign language, walk on trails of sand, and employ other creative tactics to ensure that they don’t attract any attention to themselves. The prowess showcased in the film’s first half is comparable to fellow horror standouts It Comes at Night or The Witch demonstrating an aptitude for challenging traditional conventions of the genre.As the film progresses, however, it slowly but surely divulges into standard horror fare, which is quite disappointing, considering the maturity and subtlety displayed in the beginning.
Though already having previously made comparisons to films such as Get Out, The Witch, and It Comes at Night as far as the filmmaking is concerned, the difference is that A Quiet Place, while still a tense and engaging horror film, does not aspire to achieve the heights set by those films, nor does it attempt to make any attempts at using its premise as anything more than just a vehicle for an admittedly effective horror scenario. In each of those films, themes such as paranoia and the fear of the unknown were dealt with in such a way that they were able to both work on a surface level within the reality of a horror film, but also as relevant commentary regarding contemporary social and political issues. A Quiet Place’s premise could have also been able to work within that context given the fear and paranoia that should exist within our characters towards these unknown creatures that ruthlessly hunt them at will.
The setting of a desolate, post-apocalyptic world ravaged by monsters centered on a stoic, bearded man (Krasinski performing double duty as both director and star) protecting his family is nothing new, but what manages to elevate these stock characters are the restrictions that the screenplay places upon the film. Forcing Krasinski to find ways of conveying these characters’ emotions and relations to each other with little to no dialogue, the film succeeds in translating this dynamic behind the strength of his cast (headlined by Emily Blunt) and his own directing ingenuity.
In the few brief moments where characters are able to speak out loud to each other, it becomes extremely noticeable just how much this movie benefits from its silence. Not just in dialogue, but the long stretches of silence also serve to make sounds of any kind that much more impactful and unnerving when they do happen. The movie also doesn’t pass up the opportunity to take advantage of using some admittedly cheap jump scares that most other horror movies would be rightfully condemned for, but this movie is allowed to get away with it to a certain extent due to how restrained it allows itself to be, as well as how effective the build-up consistently is.
As things start ramping up in the second half, it loses a lot of the subdued maturity that it had established in the first half and becomes a pretty standard mainstream horror movie from that point on. The movie begins to lose its grounded, understated tone, resulting in more outrageous and over-the-top moments which feel tonally disconnected from what the rest of the film had been beforehand, no moment more egregious than the final shot, which is laughably cheesy and not at all fitting for the type of film that this is supposed to be.