Past the Popcorn provides South King Media with exclusive reviews of Theatrical and Home Video entertainment. We aim to dig just a little deeper than the surface of what we watch.
The famous tagline for Alien, one of the most popular sci-fi horror films of all-time, is “in space no one can hear you scream.” I’ll bet the characters in the new sci-fi horror film A Quiet Place wish that were true on Earth as well, because they are being hunted by creatures who may be blind, but they have exceptional hearing. If they hear you scream, you will soon be dead.
A Quiet Place is directed by John Krasinski, who also stars in the film alongside his real-life wife, Emily Blunt. They play Lee and Evelyn Abbott, a pair of regular parents attempting to protect their family from the dangers of a post-apocalyptic environment in which a large portion of the Earth’s population has been wiped out by these mysterious creatures. How these creatures came to hunt on Earth is never fully explained and the only details we are given is through newspaper clippings and a whiteboard in their basement as Lee attempts to uncover the creatures’ weakness. The only thing they know for sure about the creatures now is that they respond to and attack sound, so they must go through life making as little noise as humanly possible.
After a brief prelude, we find the Abbott family living at a farmhouse that they have soundproofed as best they can. Their only connection with other people is the signals they send up by fire each night, presumably to indicate to the others that they have survived another day. In addition to trying to figure out the creatures’ weakness, Lee is also attempting to fashion a functional hearing aid for his deaf daughter and teach his son the best ways to hunt and gather, so that the family can continue to survive. Meanwhile, Evelyn is preparing as best she can for their soon-to-be-born baby, knowing full well that keeping a newborn baby perfectly quiet may be the most formidable task they have undertaken since this horrible nightmare began.
As you might expect, there is very little dialogue in A Quiet Place, but the characters do an excellent job of communicating both to each other and the audience using subtitled sign language and hand signals. And the lack of dialogue makes those very few moments in which the characters are able to speak to one another just as much as a relief to us in the audience as it is to the characters themselves.
The lack of dialogue makes the rest of the movie’s sound design even more important and credit must be given to Krasinski and his sound team. Since it has been set up that every sound could be fatal, every single noise on the soundtrack is amplified in its importance. This helps to keep the audience on their toes throughout this entire movie in which we never feel safe. And the sound design for the creatures themselves is absolutely terrifying, especially because it often very sudden. Add to all this a terrific, haunting score and you have a movie that is destined for some Oscar nominations in the sound categories down the line.
In addition to the sound design, the creature’s physical design is equally as effective and scary. Like the Xenomorph in Alien, the creatures in this film stay mostly hidden throughout the majority of the movie, but when the full design is finally revealed it is both fascinating and terrifying.
But none of that sound design or creature design works unless we as an audience can relate to and care for the lead characters. It certainly helps in this film that they are pretty much the only characters we are ever introduced to, but they are well-drawn as well. The movie opens with an establishing event that sets up the dynamic between the four leads and gives them an emotional focal point for the rest of the movie to create both a connection and also friction in their ranks. We also see brief moments of love in the midst of all the terror, such as a quick slow dance or the quietist Monopoly game ever played.
It is crucial that those brief moments are effective, because they are few and far between in a movie that never lets up, continuously upping the tension and the stakes. So many times in this movie my mind said “oh, you have GOT to be kidding me,” because when you think the movie is not going to go there, it goes there. And I mean that in the best possible way.
A Quiet Place is one of the most consistently tense, thrilling, and scary horror movies I have seen in a long time. The tension builds throughout and there are plenty of earned jump scares all the way up to the pitch-perfect conclusion.
A Quiet Place is now playing at the AMC Kent Station 14, the AMC Southcenter 16, the Century Federal Way, and Regal’s The Landing 14.