Ginger Nuts of Horror
The silent apocalypse is a gripping experience
The enticing trailer for “A Quiet Place” has been kicking around for a while now, and without much fanfare this exhilarating apocalyptic horror thriller finally whispers into the UK cinemas. Pulling in at a lean and mean b-movie 90 minutes it really was well worth the wait and I could have happily watched the story spin out for much longer. I also suggest you check out this little beauty on a very big screen and DO NOT take any crisps or wrapped sweets as you’ll really piss someone off. Also, the less you know about the plot the better, so I’m going to be deliberately vague on specifics.
Word of warning: in my neck of the woods the cinematic horror film experience is frequently ruined by talking arseholes, so make sure you watch this film in a cinema which you know will be COMPLETELY SILENT, as the lack of talking and noise genuinely pushes the tension us several notches. I watch a lot of horror films on the big screen and am often disappointed by efforts which are either overrated, or others I feel I’ve seen before. Be rest assured “A Quite Place” has enough going for it for even the most jaded horror fan and you really haven’t seen it before. And the big question all horror films ask: “is it scary?” Oh yes, it’s top heavy with jumps, frights and bumps.
With only a few characters in the film, a family is forced to live in near silence while hiding from horrific creatures that hunt by sound. That’s about the size of the plot. There has obviously been some worldwide catastrophe, but the brief snippets revealed to the audience are sparingly taken from newspaper scraps seen in background shots, but it certainly indicates that most of the population is dead. The film cleverly does very little to set the scene, allowing the viewer to join the dots which are easy to do after a few minutes.
The film opens with Emily Blunt (Evelyn) and John Krasinski (Lee) and their three kids scavenging in a local town, disaster strikes, and we pick the story up several months later. Their whole existence revolves around living a completely silent life, and drilling these basic principles into their kids, as any kind of dramatic sound will attract these monsters.
How is a film with no dialogue then? Pretty great, and the viewer very quickly adapted to the family’s simplified version of sign language and subtitles. It made the occasional spoken scene (such as a scene inside a water fall) a bit strange and odd unexpected noises really jolt. The scene when Evelyn listens to Neil Young’s “Harvest Moon” (with headphones on) it makes the music sound particularly beautiful.
Interestingly the filmmakers choose to show the creatures (fleeting) very early in the film rather than hide them away which is more normal in this type of film. This did not ruin the tension at all, and the first appearance gives a terrific jolt. The monsters were nasty looking buggers, but they came close to being overexposed in the last sequences, but I think the director played it just right with the screen time he gave them.
“A Quiet Place” is essentially a survival horror film and is a fabulous example of how to develop atmosphere without any visible bloodshed at all. Many of the best scenes were sweaty and claustrophobic, filmed at close quarters as the creatures stalked the family trying their very best to be silent, but hyperventilating with fear. The overpowering natural feeling is to “RUN!” but that would only lead to certain death, so the camera makes the most of the dramatic sounds of the fearful breathing.
The setting, where most of the action take place, was amazingly well drawn and it was fun to look at all the clever techniques the family utilised to kill sound from their day to day lives, from walking on sand covered paths, to eating with no cutlery. As the film progresses the characters make many particularly dumb decisions, and I did wonder how they had managed to survive as long as they had by the time the end approached, but that was a small quibble. It’s a horror film, so expect dumb decisions.
In many horror films you don’t give a monkey about who is killed off, not so with “A Quiet Place” the family dynamics are one of the most powerful elements of the film and the two main child actors are terrific. You can visibly taste the fear of the boy (Marcus) when he is being stalked in the corn fields. The elder teenage daughter (Regan) is even better and she is in many ways the star of the film, struggling to overcome a tragedy she blames herself for, and with tricky dynamics with her father because of it. This was all very believable, no real heroes, just a family trying to survive against the odds and it was pitched perfectly.
For some weird reason it had me thinking of Josh Malerman’s “Birdbox” where light kills, rather than sound and with the Netflix version of “Birdbox” on the horizon one wonders whether it will mess with the senses as cleverly and convincingly as “A Quiet Place”? I genuinely hope so.
The film ended rather abruptly, but with a very cool ending, however, once you give it a little bit more thought it doesn’t say much for the world’s scientific community! Above all, I’m incredibly impressed that an actor best known for appearing in the “American Office” could direct a horror film as good as this. It’s one of the best I’ve seen on the cinema since “It Follows”.
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