Release: April 6, 2018
Director: John Krasinski
Screenplay: Bryan Woods, Scott Beck, John Krasinski
Starring: Emily Blunt as Evelyn Abbott, John Krasinski as Lee Abbott, Millicent Simmonds as Regan Abbot, Noah Jupe as Marcus Abbott, and Cade Woodward as Beau Abbott
Running Time: 90 minutes
Potential Spoilers Commenceth Forthwith.
With his filmography heavily weighted with light romantic comedy fare and his only two outings as a feature film director being low scoring, low grossing comedic dramas, John Krasinski isn’t exactly the first name that would spring to mind when one thinks of horror or science fiction. With this in mind, my expectations going into A Quiet Place were low to practically nonexistent. Would it be possible for the guy whose biggest claim to fame is mugging for the camera on the U.S. version of The Office to succeed at directing and starring in a sci-fi or horror film, let alone one that is a combination of both? Well, the answer is that, much like the fictional relationships in many of Mr. Krasinski’s other films, it’s complicated.
I can’t completely poo poo A Quiet Place. While his previous two efforts as a feature film director proved to be low scoring, low grossing disasters, this one is not bad. The film looks good, the scenes are well put together and paced nicely. No extraneous, lingering closeups, no extended wide angle shots that serve as little more than visual padding. This is definitely a good thing, given that A Quiet Place is almost entirely devoid of spoken dialogue and as such relies much on visuals to carry things forward. Honestly, I felt the visuals were so well done that they could have not bothered with subtitling the sign language and things would have gotten across just fine. The sound design is also superb and goes a long way in selling just how acute the seldom seen antagonists’ hearing is. The film’s writers have done a good job of crafting a fairly interesting narrative on top of a simple, high-concept foundation. One of the best parts of A Quiet Place is the fact the filmmakers have avoided the all too common modern trope of “lets over-explain things until the point that it’s patronizing and outright insulting to the audience’s intelligence.” There are no grand soliloquies laying out the excruciating minutia of just what happened before the events of the film. Instead, there are little visual clues (news paper headlines that will appear in the background briefly, the notes scrawled in on the board in Lee’s workshop, etc) that give you a sense of what happened, but you’re mostly left to draw your own conclusions.
The creatures look good in passing, but in the shots where they are very prominently displayed (such as the basement scene during the film’s final minutes), the film’s low budget nature really becomes clear. I’ve said in previous reviews that low lighting is the best friend of low budget horror effects, and this is true of A Quiet Place as well. This scene would have benefitted greatly from being shot with the basement lit a bit more dimly. The bright lighting really makes the creature look sort of cartoony and not very frightening. This last bit is something of an overarching problem for A Quiet Place. For a sci-fi horror flick, it’s just not very horrific.
No, I’m not going to complain about there not being enough arterial spray or viscera strewn every which way. The problem is that the overarching sense of building tension that creates the sense of foreboding and dread necessary for effective horror simply isn’t there. A Quiet Place succeeds quite well as a dramatic, relatively low budget sci-fi film about a family struggling to survive in the wake of some sort of apocalyptic invasion event. However, in the mind of this viewer, it fails miserably as a horror flick.
Yes, the effects are a bit wonky and it’s not particularly frightening, but on the whole A Quiet Place is an entertaining and mostly deservedly praised movie from a filmmaker that I, frankly, didn’t think had it in him.