Is it just me, or are horror films getting... smarter? Growing up and attending adolescent sleepovers in the time of B-grade Stephen King, gore-fests, creature-features and monsters that go bump in the night, my opinion has been tainted from the beginning, and my negative attitude towards them has followed me into adulthood (with a brief reprieve during the ‘Scream’/‘I Know What You Did Last Summer’ era). However, there is a change in the winds of late - with cinemas being home to the likes of ‘Get Out’, ‘It’, ‘It Follows’, ‘Split’, 'The Babadook' and ‘Better Watch Out’, the calibre of this genre has gone from cheap, eye-rolling and gratuitous with the sole purpose of causing teenagers to wet their sleeping bags at night to intelligent, clever, artistic and, as of 2018, Oscar-worthy.
It’s 2020, or there abouts; the date no longer matters, just how many days since They arrived. In an almost completely deserted town, a man (John Krasinski, ’13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi’), his wife (Emily Blunt, ‘The Devil Wears Prada’) and their children spend every minute of every day in the fight for their lives. Aliens live in their area - they attack quickly and without hesitation at the smallest noise. This mother and father have created an impressive life of silence and survival, with the father tinkering away daily in search of a solution and signs of human life out there in rest of the world. We see this family more than a year since the aliens’ arrival. The mother is eight months pregnant and preparing for a life with a noisy newborn, while the dad struggles to teach his terrified 12-year-old son (Marcus Abbott, ‘Suburbicon’) how to take care of the family, and his relationship with his defiant teenage deaf daughter (Millicent Simmonds, ‘Wonderstruck’) is fractured to say the least.
This film is a family affair on and off the screen, with Krasinski donning his star, writer and director hats here, as well as casting his real-life wife as his on-screen partner. The story of ‘A Quiet Place’ at its core is family - their physical and emotional survival as a family unit, which is the film’s biggest strength. We’re never privy to this family’s life before the arrival, nor does it matter, all we see is their extensive current setup, their resourcefulness and their unwavering love and care of one another. It is quite beautiful and a lovely and surprising departure in such a genre.
The story of ‘A Quiet Place’ at its core is family - their physical and emotional survival as a family unit, which is the film’s biggest strength.
Obviously given the plot it’s no surprise to learn that the communication here is sparse, and with the exception of only two scenes, it's completely non-verbal. The family uses sign language and simple gestures as well as general body language and eye contact. But boy, would I love to get my hands on the screenplay - undoubtedly littered with the most impressive visual direction and subtle details to leave its audience in unrelenting suspense.
No film can escape those inevitable questions that arise as you leave the cinema, and while ‘A Quiet Place’ does have those, they’re minor. Krasinski and his co-writers Bryan Woods and Scott Beck have strategically and surreptitiously placed all the information you need throughout the scenes in order to paint a complete and fantastic picture free of queries and inconsistencies.
The cast - a grand total of six actors - are all brilliant. Blunt and Krasinski are wonderful without question, and if you didn’t love them enough off-screen, this will put them over the edge. But the breakaway here is Millicent Simmonds; this real-life deaf actress is transfixing, and the real protagonist of the story. So much rests on her young shoulders, but her mere presence is a true stroke of genius - in a world where noise will get you killed, a person who can’t hear is surely ideal, however it’s in this place that you need the ability to hear more than ever.