As if you didn’t hear already, John Krasinski (Yes, that adorkably nice guy who plays Jim from The Office) has co-written, co-starred, and directed A Quiet Place, a post-apocalyptic movie of sorts, that tells the tense tale of one family that is trying to successfully live in a world where sci-fi-like creatures with immaculate hearing capabilities will hunt (anyone who’s still left) who make any sort of sudden noise. We meet the Abbott family, initially consisting of Lee (Krasinski), Evelyn (Krasinski’s real-life wife Emily Blunt), deaf daughter Regan (crucially portrayed by real-life deaf actress Millicent Simmonds), Marcus (Noah Jupe), and Beau (Cade Woodward), (each impressive actors in their own right, by the way) at “Day 89” where they are still getting used to the idea of having to remain silent for their survival at all times. Tragedy befalls them, and they are forced to continue on within this grief-stricken, emotionally-stalling, and devoid-of-most-communication environment they are living in.
Spoilers from this point forward!
Well-done “Holy shit!” moment number one: (Huge props to the trailer marketers for not giving this away, by the way) Less than 10 minutes into the film, I was blindsided by the sudden death of the Abbot’s first son, as he innocently plays with his shuttle space toy, only to be hunted out of these Alien-meets-Dermagoden-from-Stranger-Things monsters that lurk in the bushes, as they are highly sensitive to sudden spurts of sounds. Of all the articles I had been reading for the last few months about the movie, I had no idea that the Abbotts had a third son named Beau, and I had recalled the scene in the trailer, in which John Krasinski is hauling ass, barefooted, across a bridge to stop his young son from making sounds with his noisy space shuttle toy, but I was stunned (!) when the creatures pop out of seemingly nowhere and snatch him and attack him like a hawk. Many of us horror nerds bitch about Hollywood’s overuse of jump scares, and yes, there are quite a few in A Quiet Place, but in this case, it’s not really a bad thing. The film genuinely caught me off guard a good four or fives times throughout, and my anxiety levels hit through-the-roof, as the family mechanically alters their every move– like avoiding certain steps that creak on the staircase, using sign language, and eating with their hands– in order to avoid making critical sounds.
We cut to a flash forward to Day 400-something (I don’t recall the exact number) and we see exactly how the Abbotts have progressed, not only in their ways of staying silent and avoiding the creatures, but also, moving on (somewhat) from the loss of young son Beau. Lee has built a shelter of newspaper clippings (that contain some hints to the audience as to what happened prior to all of this), surveillance cameras, and weapons, while also creating hearing aides for Regan. Regan, who is still guilt-ridden, as she was the one who gave her young brother that noisy toy, is convinced that Lee holds Beau’s death against her, but continues to want to explore the dangerous outside world, while striving to be strong for her family. Marcus is being taught by Lee how to survive and take care of himself in this quiet world, but he is very fearful and does not feel he is ready. And finally, Evelyn…Oh, Evelyn…she’s with child. Hmm…so, in a world where any sudden noise can almost guarantee your death, you’re going to bring a screaming, crying baby into it? I mean, I get the fact that they are probably trying to repopulate the earth and such…and John Krasinksi as Lee looks damn fine with a beard, (so she probably couldn’t resist)…but was that the smartest decision to make at the time?
In any matter, we discover just how bad ass this woman is (even if she can’t keep her legs closed) as we watch her not only deliver her own baby while Lee and the kids are not home, but also narrowly avoid the creatures, after doing her best (but failing) at trying not to scream at the pain of being in labor while also accidentally stepping on an ill-placed nail on the staircase. It’s from this point forward that we as an audience really start to feel for the Abbotts: every time they want to cry, scream, curse, laugh, or anything else that otherwise releases emotions, they simply cannot, because of the sounds attached, which is a heartbreaking and frustrating problem to have for a family that has already endured so much pain.
One complaint I had with (not the actual film itself) but the audience that I had watched it with, was that they simply wouldn’t shut the fuck up. A movie that relies on about 60-70% of its running time on silence should be treated with respect, yet we had some assholes moving around, getting up to take phone calls, texting noises, and candy wrappers opening, which frankly, distracted me and irritated me. Oh! And to top things off, (on a not-sold-out Wednesday night screening, mind you) we could recognize the sounds from a screening of Black Panther playing next to our screening. Are you serious?? Get your shit together, AMC Theaters (and moviegoers!). But anyway, A Quiet Place contains great use of sound for the purpose of building tension and anxiety throughout. Both sound (and silence) are characters in their own right– and should be taken seriously while watching.
As I briefly mentioned at the top, the actors did a wonderful job at relaying the sometimes complicated relationships between each of them, particularly within the film’s overall theme of parenthood. The monsters, as extreme and unrealistic (in our current world, at least) as they may appear, effectively represent the perils of the outside world that parents so lovingly try to protect their children from. After Lee and Evelyn lose Beau, they are especially protective, nurturing, and resourceful for/of their surviving children, to the point where one child doubts his ability to survive without them. Even if you’re not a parent (I’m not either) you hopefully had at least some form of parental guardian(s) in your life, who have probably made enormous sacrifices to make you happy and feel loved as a kid. Perhaps not nearly as significant as saving your ass by sacrificing themselves to a noise-hunting monster, but hell, I had this realization when I was in DisneyWorld a few years back: as I walked around the parks, and surveyed the lines of bratty kids who wined and screamed as they impatiently waited for Princess Jasmine or whoever, I carefully took notice of the exhausted, defeated expressions painted on their parents’ faces. After dishing out probably over a grand of their savings, you’re crying and having a hissy fit that you have to wait 2 hours for Mickey Mouse’s autograph– and here your parents are, dying of Florida heat, dreaming about going back to the hotel, while keeping their mouths shut because they know how happy their kids are right now, and that’s all they really care about. They don’t care how miserable they are at the moment–they live to make you happy. If that doesn’t make you feel bad about how much shit (and money) you put your parents through, and how much they did for you, A Quiet Place will make you want to call your parents after viewing and just thank them for always (hopefully) having your back.
Even though I saw John Krasinski’s death by sacrifice for his children coming a mile away, based on stupid spoiler-ish articles and heresy that plagues the Internet ahead of a movie release, I still found my eyes watering a bit– right as Lee makes the “I’ve always loved you” sign language gesture to his deaf daughter, so the scene still proved effective to me.
The ending is purposely left intriguingly ambiguous and open-ended, and I loved it. We see Evelyn and the kids grab their weapons and prepare for one-on-one battle with the monsters…and then the screen cuts to black, and we never find out if they live or die. Sure, they probably anticipated a possible sequel or franchise development to continue the story in the future, (thus leaving the ending ambiguous to keep the audience on its toes…but the story itself was plenty satisfying without giving you a cheesy Hollywood, typical blockbuster ending. And I was very content with their decision to refrain from that. Thank you for not selling out, John Krasinski.
Will we find out what exactly went down in the world before Day 89, for a prequel? Will we discover if the surviving Abbotts survive the bum-rush of monsters that are coming for their home after the sound of the gunshot? Not sure, but I can almost guarantee that with a $50mil + opening weekend and a genuinely original story that horror audiences need, we can bet money that A Quiet Place will turn into a franchise. Now let’s just hope they won’t ruin what they so meticulously accomplished in this one. Grade: A- (Not an A+ because I could have used a bit more horror quirkiness to this almost annoyingly, perfectly neat and polished film)