A Quiet Place: a horror masterclass

The ‘what if’ question is often a good way to start the process of creating a story for a writer. To come up with a meaty concept. In A Quiet Place it’s: what if alien type monsters arrived on earth and could hunt us based on the tiniest sounds we make?

So with the inevitable when (and it’s always a when) of when you break the silence, you’ll find it’s game over moments later, because these predators are insanely fast and nigh on indestructible.

The only way to survive is to be utterly silent.
At all times.
Or die.

Which is where we start.

Searching for supplies in an abandoned town we meet Lee Abbott (John Krasinkski) and his family. It’s clear the slightest noise they make is a BIG DEAL. So they use sign language and move around barefoot, walking from their farm to the town and back on trails of sand they’ve painstakingly put down everywhere.

Whilst Lee and his wife Evelyn (Emily Blunt) are highly aware of what might happen should they make a noise, the kids are slightly less mindful of the danger (being kids), except maybe oldest daughter Regan (Millicent Simmonds).

The thing that struck me in these opening exchanges is how Krasinkski as director allows us into the characters’ world with such ease. He sets out the roles within the family dynamic and how they interact in such a simple, effective and visual way. All in the first few moments, and all in silence.

And this is made particularly impressive by the fact that the majority of modern mainsteam studio films start guns blazing… all dialogue, action, music, mayhem turned up to 11.

So it’s refreshing, palate cleansing almost, that Krasinski starts the way he does. Showing a confidence in his material and commitment to his vision as a filmmaker.

This in spite of the fact that it’s only his third outing as director and, being a contributing writer as well as one of the leads, it seems like it should be too much for him (or anyone) to handle, but he appears right at home.

It probably helps he brought part of his home with him – at least in terms of acting (for the first time) opposite his real-life wife, Emily Blunt. As this makes for an easy and believable chemistry (you’d worry if they didn’t get this bit right) and, to be honest, if you can get Emily Blunt in your movie, then get Emily Blunt in your movie. I’m a big fan and she brought a lot to the role.

The best parts of this film, unsurprisingly, come in the quietest moments.

By this I mean not necessarily the sound, but the little details, the grace notes, the thought and care the filmmakers put into creating this world. From the VFX people and how they created the monsters, to the design and layout of the farm and even down to the clothes the characters wear (all rugged, chunky knits in rich, earthy, natural colours).

There is also delicate detail in the way the tension builds slowly and feels real. Opposite to how – with most horror – you’re expecting a monster or killer to jump out and eviscerate one of the expendable characters, or even a lead character, often quite early in proceedings. Here you’re hoping and praying the family don’t suffer the same fate.

I found I cared a lot more about the Abbott family then I have ever done for a group of attractive teens trying to evade a slasher killer, for example.

And this probably comes down to the message the movie is trying to put across about how difficult it is being a parent in the modern world. After a traumatic incident early on that sets the stakes and illustrates the danger, the rest of the movie is basically Lee and Evelyn trying their hardest to protect their kids and just live their lives.

Evelyn even says to Lee at one point, ‘Who are we if we cannot protect our kids?’.

And talking of kids, special mention should go to the actors that play the two eldest children, Regan (Millicent Simmonds) and Marcus (Noah Jupe). Both put in superb performances, particularly Millicent, who blames, and is angry, at herself, after the incident early on, and just wants her father’s love, but doesn’t feel she deserves it.

For me, Krasinski was also something of a surprise. I’ve not really seen him in anything before, just knew his name. He was almost Captain America at one point, and you can see why. He’s a commanding presence and holds the screen and has handsome, everyman hero written all over him. He’s also very expressive without having to say anything. One to watch as both a director and a leading man. I’m keen to see what he does next.

In terms of A Quiet Place though, it’s superb. Even if you aren’t really into horror, it’s so much more than that really. It’s emotionally very affecting, tense, tender and will leave you thinking about its themes for days after.

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