Who would have thought that good old Jim Halpert and Emily from The Devil Wears Prada would get married and make a horror movie? Every moment is drenched with tension that will easily make you squirm in your seat, that is, when they’re not essentially copying the pacing (and some of the plot points) of 10 Cloverfield Lane while playing very fast and loose with their in-universe rules! A Quiet Place is a movie I deeply want to love. It’s got actors I respect, an original premise and some truly gripping scenes, but there are just enough missteps to make me leave the theater feeling vaguely disappointed. As a emissary for the genre (at least, that’s how I think of myself in my head), I would easily recommend A Quiet Place to horror rookies, but it’s no It Comes At Night, that’s for sure.
This unusually star studded horror film follows Lee (John Krasinski) and Evelyn (Emily Blunt) and their two children as they fight to survive in a post apocalyptic world. America (or maybe the entire planet?) is plagued by monsters with enlarged ears. When they hear “loud noises,” they head to the source, killing whoever or whatever caused the sound. Lucky for them, Lee and Evelyn are smart. They use sign language to communicate and walk around sans shoes. They hunt and fish and raid a local town when they need anything. While Lee goes out to catch fish, Evelyn stays at home and teaches her children. They even have hand sewn Monopoly pieces so that the noise of the top hat hitting Park Avenue doesn’t attract the monsters. As Evelyn prepares to give birth, they build a soundproof nursery for the baby. Everything seems as close to idyllic as it possibly can be, until one day gone awry turns their world even further upside down.
It’s no surprise that a movie based on being as quiet as possible would focus heavily on sound. In a world where accidentally knocking over a glass or yelling after you stub your toe can mean sudden death, noise is in precious supply. This means that every scene is imparted with a thick sense of dread. Every creak on the stairs puts you on alert and Krasinski (who also directs) uses that to his full advantage. There are jump scares aplenty in this film, and they’re especially effective considering the pretty minimalist score. While there are some moments that are accented with mournful strings or sweet songs, there are just as shots where you hear nothing but the actors breathing and walking around. When the smallest thing can be the very end of you, there’s no such thing as too many precautions. Because of this, Evelyn and Lee are tightly wound and constantly worried.
The only place where they can truly relax is their soundproof baby room and the nearby waterfall, where the sound of the rushing water covers their voices. When Lee brings his eldest son here for the first time, it’s a joyful moment. At first, the boy is afraid of leaving the house (because of the super apex predator monsters, of course), but as soon as he realizes the power of the waterfall, he’s overjoyed. It’s clear right off the bat that this is the first time Lee and his son have spoken out loud to each other in quite awhile.
Though the scene definitely works as a tender moment between father and son, it also leads me to some important questions. Like, if the lake is especially loud, wouldn’t the sound monsters be there constantly? And then wouldn’t they get used to the sound of the lake and easily be able to hear over the rushing waves? If Monopoly pieces are loud enough to alert the monsters, wouldn’t running fast (the heavy breathing, the plodding of your feet hitting the ground) elicit the same response? What do you do when you have to cough or sneeze? In fact, what do you do when you fart?
And that doesn’t even touch on my animal questions! At one point in the movie, a raccoon is killed after it makes a loud noise near Evelyn and Lee’s house. Does that mean most animals are rapidly going extinct? We know for a fact that it’s been over a year since the monsters appeared, would most of the planet (or at least America) but animal free by now? Also, do bugs get murdered? Bugs can be loud as shit.
These are just a handful of the questions that ran through my mind while watching A Quiet Place. I’m a huge believer in of suspending your disbelief, especially when it comes to horror movies, but this film is so sloppy when it comes to what noises attract the monsters, that I couldn’t stop thinking about it. I’m all for breaking the rules and throwing caution for the wind for a good story, but you should at least be kind of consistent, and if you can’t do that, your story better be damn good. Luckily, the constant tension is a great distraction. Krasinski has done a killer job at putting his characters (including himself) in a never ending spiral of danger. Just when you think the monsters are going to come and take away everything you hold dear, a more benign threat appears out of nowhere. His characters are constantly running away or fighting back and they manage to make it feel compelling throughout the film.
Which is why it’s disappointing when plot points and themes feel like they’ve been pulled straight from other movies. 10 Cloverfield Lane and It Comes At Night are the most obvious examples. The same way 10 Cloverfield is a psychological thriller wrapped in a post apocalyptic movie, A Quiet Place is a family drama wrapped in a post apocalyptic movie. They even end with the same, “Let’s kick some monster’s ass” call to action. Similarly, It Comes At Night does a far better job at tackling what it’s like to be a teen in the middle of the apocalypse and how you have to juggle stereotypical teen feelings while dealing with very unique end of the world challenges.
That doesn’t mean A Quiet Place isn’t a movie worth seeing. If you enjoy feeling uncomfortable and love jumping out of your seat, this is a cinematic experience you don’t want to miss. If you’re new to the genre and want to see some familiar actors engage with a different genre, this is a great starting point. It’s fun, it’s thrilling, but at the end of the day, it’s not doing anything that different.