A Quiet Place and Hereditary are the two most acclaimed (some might say hyped) horror films of the year that aren’t a remake or a sequel. Hereditary left me utterly cold and somewhat baffled by the critical response, it seemed like it was a horror film made for people who aren’t fans of the genre. It also suffered from an excessive running time of over two hours, while A Quiet Place is a lean 90 minutes including credits, so it can’t outstay its welcome.
As with any good horror film, the set-up is admirably simple: blind aliens have invaded earth, and they have hypersensitive hearing so the surviving humans have to be as quiet as a mouse to survive. The film is told through the eyes of the family lead by Evelyn and Lee Abbott (Emily Blunt and John Krasinski), who have three kids, including a girl who is deaf. They salvage around the woods and the nearby town for food and supplies. The family faces tragedy early on in the film, but Evelyn is soon pregnant with another child—but will they all survive the aliens despite being extra-cautious?
The direction by Krasinski is perfectly balanced with the sound design, which is where the film really flourishes. The film is silent for the most part, they speak mostly in American Sign Language, and it’s subtitled for the audience. The filmmakers initially didn’t include subtitles, but on second thought they decided to add them. However, the body language of the actors alone tells the audience the information they need, so they aren’t necessary. The soundscape, including the score by Marco Beltrami gives a perfect sense of dread, without being heavy-handed.
The cast are all believable in their roles. Krasinski and Blunt are a couple in real life, so that chemistry boosts their performances. Krasinski’s dual role as actor/director seems to work well. The children are also good actors, especially Deaf actress Millicent Simmonds, who also appears in Wonderstruck and it’s always good to see disabled actors playing disabled roles.
At one point the filmmakers were going to pitch it as an installment of the Cloverfield films, but it’s a good thing they didn’t, as it had some similarities to 10 Cloverfield Lane, the only one of that series that I actually like. While making a film in ASL might not have sounded like the most commercial decision at pitch time, it was a massive success, and deservedly so—it’s a well-made and effective horror film, although I do hope there won’t be a sequel.
Although there are echoes of a few other films to be seen, it takes its concept in a really interesting direction. The parents’ dedication to their children and to bringing life into the word under frightening circumstances in really life-affirming. It deals well with paranoia and parenting in a flawed world. Krasinski said he inspired by the current string of sociopolitical horror films such as Get Out so there is some commentary on the current political situation in the states.
The disc includes a string of featurettes on how the film was made, including the sound design and visual effects.