Sunday, April 15, 2018

Review of A QUIET PLACE: Silence as Sanctuary

April 15, 2018

Horror had long been the genre of choice of several B-movie filmmakers who simply rehashed familiar tropes and redid the same old scare techniques to make a quick buck. In recent years though, there had been horror films that had effectively captured general mainstream approval with their uncommon themes and excellent execution, like "The Babadook" (2014), "Don't Breathe" (2016) and "Get Out" (2017). This year, "A Quiet Place" joins that exclusive shortlist. 

In the recent future, man had been decimated by an unknown threat that attacked anything that produced loud sounds. The Abbott family (engineer father Lee, his doctor wife Evelyn and their kids the deaf Regan, asthmatic Marcus and playful Beau) had so far survived the carnage around them by living in silence. But as the pregnant Evelyn was about to give birth to their next child, they need all their wits and ability to live another day.

The horror of this film is dependent on silence. At the beginning of this film, we had no idea what had happened to the world, why it had been laid to waste with only few surviving stragglers. We just knew they needed to keep quiet, or else ...? We did know yet why at that time. Then suddenly, just when we hear the first major noise created by a character, we will all be shocked and aghast with the sheer ferocity of what happens next. 

From that scene forward, the audience themselves will feel compelled to watch the rest of the film in rapt silence in vicarious cooperation for the welfare of the poor characters on the big screen. No slurping of drinks, chomping popcorn or chips, senseless chatter or squeaking seats can be heard during the duration of this film. Being immersed in the intensely quiet situations onscreen, the audience react to the various jump scares in muted pained whimpers, instead of screams.

This is the first time I've seen John Krasinski as director (only his third feature film) or dramatic actor (I've known him more as a comedian). Emily Blunt's talents as a dramatic actress are well known and with all only her expressive face, she had all our hearts palpitating in those scenes before and during her childbirth. I had just seen deaf teen actress Millicent Simmonds recently in the film "Wonderstruck." Here, she also played her headstrong character with confidence and spirit.

Such was the skill of director John Krasinski in creating the atmosphere of his story and developing audience empathy for his characters, with a bare minimum of dialog. Yes, the Abbotts also make a lot of bad decisions here, just as we see in many horror flicks in the past. There were also some head-scratching illogical moments, particularly in that grain silo that seemed to have preferential forces of gravity. However, we are all so caught up in their excruciating predicament, we hardly thought much about these little questionable details as we grit our teeth and kept our fingers crossed for their survival. 8/10.