While mainstream horror for the most part has taken the path to being jump scares and quick payoffs, bar a few and in my opinion classier films that prioritise fear and tension/dread, something always comes along to upset the apple-cart. For me, A Quiet Place is that outlying film as it takes the premise of long periods of silence followed by big noises or shocking scenes, or both, to the extreme but it is what is does in between these that it does so well.
We are brought into a deserted world where we find out that mysterious creatures are hunting everything and doing very well at it. The thing that makes them so successful over their prey? They are using sound to target and hunt. The Abbott family have managed to survive so far, to day 79, without apparent incident and have utilised some rudimentary solutions to assist their silent living. Then tragedy strikes.
Skip ahead a year after this incident and we are back with the Abbotts, still struggling on, living in silence but this time they are preparing for the birth of the newest family member. Now this isn’t an easy situation to control at the best of times. Or keep quiet. So this is where events really start to ramp up the tension. And ramp it up it certainly does. I found myself on edge for a large part of this film, caught up in the unfolding scenarios on the screen, actively worrying for their plight and concerned for their wellbeing. What A Quiet Place does so well is it keeps the threat mostly in the imagination, never showing a complete picture of the threatening creatures until much later in the film, just glimpses of how utterly destructive they can be. This, for me, is by far the best way to go with a film like this as too much disclosure leaves you sated while playing on your imagination can be not only much more powerful in terms of fear and scariness but also creates a longevity for the fear to incubate. The ability of this film to sustain the tension is remarkable, elongating the stress until you can barely take it any more, hoping that something is going to happen soon, either way, to relieve the situation.
Performances are great across the board. Emily Blunt and John Krasinski (who also directed) are really good as the husband and wife, conveying the seriousness and worry that any parents would display in this situation. Blunt particularly gets a good deal of the tense moments and carries them really well. Ably supported by the younger cast members (Millicent Simmonds and Noah Dupe), they too emote the fear of the precarious place they find themselves in.
The one thing that probably would have elevated this into the highest score bracket for me would have been a reduction in some of the score elements. The silence is the thing in this film that is the main premise, it conveys the fear, it reminds you what they are going through, it should always be pressing in on the audience. And to have this silence broken by an unnecessary musical score added nothing and actually detracted from the moments at hand, which on the whole were superbly constructed.
The special effects were of a good standard, the creature design and movement heightened the ruthlessness of their existence and the very real worry that the humans have. When they were finally shown in all their glory, they looked realistic and threatening. I thought Charlotte Bruus Christensen’s cinematography was without fault throughout, working well both close up and with some sweeping views of the landscape and bringing the best out of the enclosed, dark spaces that the family found themselves in.
Unfortunately the ending left a bit to be desired for me, a little bit too much hope and gusto that was out of character with the rest of the film, but that is just nit-picking as A Quiet Place is ultimately a very fine horror film.