A Quiet Place review: The sound of silence has never been more scary.

A Quiet Place review by Freda Cooper.

A Quiet Place review
A Quiet Place review

If this review contains any typos, the blame lies with John Krasinski, director of A Quiet Place, for creating a truly frightening horror movie.  One that generates a fear which hangs on for hours.

It’s the lifeblood of the film, alongside the all-important silence.  Outside a deserted country town, a family lead a life where sound is a matter of life and death.  As newspaper clippings show, the world has been taken over by blind creatures that rely on their acute hearing to track down their prey.  And they are steadily wiping out the human race.  So the man, his wife and their children have to live in almost total silence in order to survive.  Except that it’s near-impossible.

It makes for a film where every action, every gesture is full of caution and tension.  The slightest noise will attract the unwelcome attention of the creatures, even if they’re miles away.  And it’s immediately apparent that the family could be destroyed by the most ordinary, trivial even, of sounds.  Evelyn (Emily Blunt), the mother, is heavily pregnant.  How will she stay quiet when she goes into labour and how on earth will they conceal the sound of the baby crying when it arrives?  Their eldest child Regan (Millicent Simmonds) is profoundly deaf, wearing a hearing aid and a cochlear implant.  It makes her the most vulnerable of all, unable to hear the sounds around her or any noise she makes herself.  Surely she has to be the first to fall victim to the hideous predators?

A Quiet Place review
A Quiet Place review

Krasinski, who also plays the father alongside real life wife Blunt, anchors the story in familiar horror conventions and tropes: prolonging the moment when the monsters are fully revealed, the most innocent and every day objects becoming dangerous if not lethal, vulnerable characters in dire peril and coming physically close to their predators (think  Alien and, more recently, Annihilation).  But he handles them with a precision and a confidence that gives them a completely new lease of life.  It’s as if the audience has never seen them before.  The tension mounts, the jump-in-your-seat moments come when you least expect them – as they should – and there’s the occasional red herring, just for good measure.

Inevitably, it’s a film all about sound – the lack of it, the effect of it, the unavoidability of it.  So we hear what the parents hear: the nerve jangling thuds of the creatures on the roof, the water pouring into the cellar.  Then the perspective changes and we’re listening through Regan’s ears.  That means either a muffled hum or total silence.  Or there’s the hyper-sensitive hearing of the monsters, which picks up the slightest movement, let alone a full blooded scream.  The sound design is excellent, as is Marco Beltrami’s score, with its menace, tension and almost unbearable fear.

A Quiet Place review
A Quiet Place review

The cast, adults and children alike, make acting with the minimum of dialogue look like simplicity itself.  They communicate through a mixture of gestures, expressions and sign language and their ability to engage the audience’s sympathy is crucial to the film’s success.  Millicent Simmonds (soon also to be seen in the UK in Todd Haynes’ Wonderstruck), who is deaf in real life, demonstrates a remarkable ability to act without making a sound, giving a searingly emotional and fiery performance.

For many, 2017 was the year of horror, but A Quiet Place points to 2018 laying claim to that title.  It’s a nerve shredder of the highest order, one that constantly surprises, scares and leaves the audience shattered.

A Quiet Place review by Freda Cooper.

A Quiet Place is released in the UK on Thursday, 5th April.

 

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A Quiet Place