There is nothing quite as satisfying as a sound cinematic strategy executed with skill and plenty of style. No matter how rote the material, no matter how basic it all really is, there is an aesthetic exhilaration watching an opportunity seized, not wasted. We’ve seen dozens of films about the end of the world, the horrors of living through such a holocaust, and the terrifying reasons for such a squalid dystopia. But in John Krasinski’s masterful horror film, A Quiet Place, the tropes surrounding all these genre types are put to the test in a way that is guaranteed to jangle your nerves, disturb your sleep, and have yourself wondering what you would do should you find yourself in the same position as the Abbott family.
It’s 2020 and the entire planet is overrun by alien monsters who hunt their human victims using sound. While blind, these beasts are very astute at picking up in the tiniest noise and attacking. Using a combination of familial familiarity and sign language, the Abbotts — Lee (Krasinski), his wife Evelyn (Emily Blunt), deaf daughter Regan (Millicent Simmonds) and son Marcus (Noah Jupe) — have managed to survive. They’ve figured out ways to combat these brutal interlopers, but with tragedy already part of their family and Evelyn ready to deliver a baby, everyone is on edge. This is especially true given the harsh reality that an infant will be difficult to control, meaning a need for more preparations, and the inevitability of more attacks.
Like a well oiled machine chugging along at optimum power and speed, A Quiet Place is an instant fright night classic. It begs to be seen in a crowded — and silent — theater where the sound design and the directorial flare shown by Krasinski can be fully appreciated. Yes, this is a movie filled with jump scares and sudden shocks, but thanks to the background information inferred from the narrative, and the casts’ ability to convince us of the dread that fills every moment of their existence. The notion of sound as a trigger has been a major suspense device since the dawn of the scary movie, but thanks to the set-up and execution, it becomes a bellwether for all manner of macabre happenings.
Krasinski knows how to build a scene, to lay the groundwork and then reap the nasty rewards when they arrive. We don’t get some complicated mythology or dopey universe building. Instead, we are presented with a threat, have the dimensions of the what-if explained and illustrated, and then Krasinski starts the engines and unleashes the terror. He is excellent here, both in front of and behind the camera. So is his real life wife Blunt, who builds a level of sympathy for her long suffering matriarch. Yes, she is about to bring the Abbotts to the brink of an all out confrontation with the creatures, but she’s also prepared to defend them all to the death.
A Quiet Place is the kind of film that, when you watch it, you instantly recognize what all other horror filmmakers are doing wrong. Like James Wan, another modern master of the genre, Krasinski understands tone, mood, structure, and payoff. He’s not trying to overpower you with gore or create some kind of franchise where the Abbotts will struggle from film to film. This is an experiment in form and it works brilliantly. Sure, some in Nerd Nation will spend way too much of their abundant free time fussing over plot points and unaddressed questions, but that’s their problem. Everyone else will find themselves enjoying one of the best modern horror movies ever made. A Quiet Place is a triumph, and it’s all because of one man. Maybe John Krasinski will join Jordan Peele and Get Out next year come Awards Season. He and his film deserve it.