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.

Top 10 alternative fairytale movies

Be warned, if you’re not down with your witches, pixies, fairies and whatnot, this list will appear strange and confusing to you. That being said, away from your Cinderella and Snow White classics, here’s an alternative take on the best the fairytale genre has to offer that you might find refreshing.

10. Stardust (2007)
Based on a Neil Gaiman novel this mad fantasy adventure sees a young man fall in love with a fallen star, played wonderfully by Claire Danes. And Robert de Niro almost steals it as a camp pirate.
9. Spirited Away (2001)
Often cited as the Japanese Alice in Wonderland, this film by Hayao Miyazaki sees a young girl grow up as she’s forced to work in a bathhouse for the Gods to save her parents and return home.
8. Willow (1988)
A young Warwick Davies plays Willow, a farmer who goes on a quest to defeat an evil witch and protect a baby – with the help of a mad swordsman (Val Kilmer).
7. Big Fish (2003)
The whole thing is a reminisced fairy tale, with Albert Finney laying in bed and recounting the magical adventures he’s had throughout his life.
6. Coraline (2009)
Another Neil Gaiman adaptation – this one sees a girl find a parallel world behind a secret door where she has to fight her creepy ‘other parents‘ to save her real parents.
5. Hellboy II: The Golden Army (2008)
In this sequel, Hellboy fights to protect humanity by battling an elven Prince (Luke Goss) and his unstoppable golden army.
4. The Princess Bride (1987)
Wesley, aka the man in black, goes on a journey facing many foes along the way to save his one true love, Princess Buttercup.
3. The Labyrinth (1986)
A teenage girl (Jennifer Connelly) gives up her baby brother to a Goblin King (David Bowie) and then must venture into the labyrinth to save him.
2. Hanna (2011)
Saoirse Ronan plays uber-assassin Hanna, on a quest to discover who she is and understand her place in the world – whilst killers hunt her down.
1. Pan’s Labyrinth (2006)
Set just after the Spanish Civil War this film tells the tale of Ofelia, a young girl who meets a Faun who gives her a series of tasks to perform to achieve immortality.

Trailer park: monster, soldier, secret service

Time for a quick look ahead at the trailers of some films coming up. If you’re unfamiliar, I do these little ‘trailer park’ blogs from time to time of upcoming films that I’d like to see.

kingsman firth

For this one, I’m focusing on one out now and two out soon: a gritty historical action tale, an alternative type of sci-fi and a tongue-in-cheek action flick.

’71 (out now)
Out in cinemas now, this tale is set in Northern Ireland and follows a young British soldier (Jack O’Connell) after he becomes separated from his unit during a riot. His performance has already impressed the critics and this looks like one to see before its cinema run ends.


Monsters: Dark Continent
(UK release 28 October)
The follow up to Gareth Edwards’ 2010 original – this time directed by up-and-coming chap Tom Green – sees a soldier searching for his comrade in the desert. This looks to follow the nuanced and stylish aesthetic of the original and build on it in a promising way.


Kingsman: The Secret Service
(UK release 12 Feb, US release 13 Feb)
Has director Matthew Vaughn been in the wilderness for the last few years? Perhaps he has, however this looks like him back to his best in this action spy flick, based on a Mark Millar graphic novel and starring Colin Firth as you’ve never seen him before.

If you go down to the woods today…

The Cabin in the WoodsHands up, who likes a bit of horror? Let’s be honest, who doesn’t? Even the meekest amongst us doesn’t mind a good scare from time to time, it gets the blood going.

Well, sorry to burst your bubble, but The Cabin in the Woods is probably more entertaining than scary, perhaps because what starts as a standard horror film – good looking teens heading to a secluded cabin for the weekend – soon transforms into something else entirely. The usual set up is in place, typecast teens (jock, sensitive guy, stoner, good girl and slut) head to some ‘off the grid’ cabin, however inter-cut with their journey are scenes of two guys (West Wing’s Bradley Whitford and the increasingly ubiquitous Richard Jenkins) going about their daily jobs in some vast laboratory complex, clearly discussing the fate of the teens in question.

cabin labBig brother is watching
This gets your brain ticking. How do the teens relate to the lab guys? Are they part of an experiment or reality show? What’s the deal? For me, I started to picture The Running Man, Truman Show, that sort of thing. Whilst de-constructing horror is not a new concept – think back to Wes Craven’s Scream for example – there’s always room for another take.

What Cabin offers is lively entertainment and zinging dialogue, with a few scares and well-paced action. This is down to the writing team of Joss Whedon and Drew Goddard, the former behind Buffy and Avengers and the latter behind Lost and Cloverfield. From that you can get a pretty good idea of what to expect.

An army of nightmares
In terms of cast, stand-out performances include good girl Dana (Kristen Connelly) – looking a little like a younger Scarlett Johansson – and stoner Marty (Fran Kranz), assuming the role of comic relief and the most perceptive of the group. Between the two of them they begin to make sense of their predicament and influence their fate.

Cabin-In-The-Woods-endingCurt the jock (Chris Hemsworth aka Thor) holds the screen well, having filmed Cabin a couple of years before his career took off but, due to studio issues, the film only saw release this year. Perhaps no bad thing, as his star power now carries weight.

As the story plays out it becomes clear that the teens are being manipulated for a much greater purpose – something hinted at throughout. This leads to an epic monster-filled finale, something that will delight horror nuts and casual fans of the genre alike. Ultimately, this is a great Friday night movie, not that scary, but hugely entertaining nonetheless.