Samuel Kaufman ’19 / Emertainment Monthly Staff Writer
The opening scene of A Quiet Place is a fantastic short film. It’s succinct, suspenseful, scary. With almost no dialogue and scarce world-building, you know who these people are, what they want, and how much is at stake. The first scene can act independently from the rest of the film in much the same way that the opening scene of There Will Be Blood can. Unlike Paul Thomas Anderson, director John Krasinski can’t quite keep up that momentum for the length of a feature film.
A Quiet Place is the first horror film directed by Krasinski, who rose to fame playing Jim on the American version of The Office. The film follows Lee Abbott (Krasinski) and his wife Evelyn (played by Krasinski’s real-life wife, Emily Blunt) as the parents of several young kids in a post-apocalyptic world that has been destroyed by monsters (or aliens maybe? It’s never really explained). These creatures have no vision but have supersensitive hearing. They use this ability to hunt and kill humans. It is unclear – or at least not memorable – if these creatures eat people or just really get a kick out of killin’ some peeps. Regardless, it leads to a fascinating idea for a horror film. An idea that is painfully close to being well executed, but ultimately falls short. This is infuriating especially because the concept has so much potential.
When making a high-concept horror/sci-fi movie like A Quiet Place, the rules of the world must be strictly established and obeyed. Every choice the characters make both on and off-screen has to be carefully thought out so that it follows the rules of the world. Unfortunately, A Quiet Place often doesn’t establish its world well enough, and when it does, the characters act irrationally given their situation.
For a modern example of how to make a movie with airtight logic and characters making realistic decisions within their world, check out Jeremy Saulnier’s 2015 Green Room. Horror die-hards and regular viewers alike will be looking for these rules, consciously or subconsciously and noting when things don’t line up with them. Some aspects of this film are just as well thought out as the best films in the genre. The art direction and set decoration is detailed, specific, and does a ton to establish the world of the film. Where the film starts to break its own rules is in the decision making of its characters.
One example of this is that the couple is having a baby in the film – that’s right, in a world where any amount of sound can cause the gruesome deaths of you and everyone around you, these characters are planning on bringing a sound making machine into the world, endangering the lives of themselves as well as their other children. This is not to say that a character can never act irrationally or against their own interests, but that irrationality has to be motivated, and A Quiet Place lacks that key motivation.
As for the horror elements of this horror film, A Quiet Place generally falls short, relying less on atmospheric horror and more on jump scares as the film progresses, eventually falling into the trope of many modern horror films where the last act turns into an action movie, ditching the scares altogether. There is one impactful moment of gore in the film, but, for the most part, you’ll have no problem getting to sleep after A Quiet Place, unless, of course, poor writing and sloppy filmmaking scares you.
Overall Grade: C+
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