A Quiet Place Review
In John Krasinski’s A Quiet Place, the fledgling director takes on a nearly insurmountable task: making a shift in the public eye from comedic actor to serious auteur. A Quiet Place is his second picture as director, and his first horror film. While people have been touting this film as a B-movie, I would argue it is trying to be something much greater, and fits in with the recent wave of understated sci-fi horror films that use a somewhat generic, simplistic backdrop to focus on more poignant and timeless issues such as trust, compassion, and companionship—a method that many groundbreaking films utilize. Krasinski stars alongside his real wife, Emily Blunt; their chemistry is natural and feels very believable. Millicent Simmonds has a major part as Krasinski’s deaf daughter who struggles to prove herself after a tragic event in her past keeps making her feel like she is held back. All of these elements combine with extremely effective sound design that sits at the forefront to create a very tense and enjoyable experience.
Immediately at the start of the film, Krasinski sets up a cast of characters that force the audience to adapt to the world’s rules. By this, I mean that in order to pay attention to the film, audience members must not be talking, as they will miss the subtitles and can no longer multitask to the dialog in the background. With this conscious choice, Krasinski also forces the sound design to become an invisible main character in the film; not in a cheap sense as with the jump scare, but rather with sound effects that accentuate how loud we truly are in the quiet world—now being held to a higher standard given the circumstances that the characters are in. Throughout the entire film there are only around 10 to 20 minutes of spoken dialogue, while the rest of the film’s communication is through sign language or reactions from the characters themselves visually communicating information to others. The diegetic perspective of the viewer is also played with, as it switches from the general viewpoint of the family to the daughter as the background noise inherent in most films is replaced with a muffled nothingness to further emphasize whose perspective is being shown.
While on the topic of perspective, the visuals in this film were at best average, and at worst laughable. To illustrate my point, there are three obvious examples to pull from: a certain tense moment involving an old man, obvious visual cues that tell the audience what is important for later on in the film, the visual style of the shots, and the last minute or so of the film. For starters, the overall look of the film is nice, but it is not fitting with the themes or subject matter presented in the story. There were numerous times when the lens flare from the sun—used as an obvious aesthetic choice, usually to highlight the beauty or rustic quality of something when juxtaposed with a rural setting—highly contrasts with the terrifying visuals to a point where it makes one question whether the choice to have Charlotte Bruus Christensen (cinematographer of Molly’s Game, and Fences) was the right choice for this film considering how out of place the visual style is in comparison with the rest of the picture.
Adding to this conundrum is a scene in which an elderly man with a fuzzy white beard is seen standing in front of his dead wife. Krasinski and his son both look at him and Krasinski places his finger over his lips, but instead of being quiet, the old man sucks his mouth into the black hole that is his white beard, as the camera dolly zooms in on him and he lets out a guttural scream to get the monsters in the film to kill him. I will keep the following two critiques short as they are minor. The visual cues are just shots that could have been removed because of the fact that to any active viewer it is obvious where the story is going. As for the ending, I will only say that it involves a tonal shift that did not, in any way shape or form, blend into what was already established throughout the entire runtime of the film. In hindsight, these issues are minor and don’t effect one’s overall enjoyment of the film.
With that being said, A Quiet Place is, overall, a highly entertaining experience and one of the most refreshing horror films to be released in this decade. John Krasinski pulls off an interesting and original concept well enough to be believable while also being serious enough to build and maintain suspense. While most people will still only know him as being Jim Halpert from The Office, this film is one that will seriously make a mark on his career—either as a sign of what’s to come in the future or merely a flash in the pan for this budding director and actor.