In A Quiet Place, modern life is turned upside down by a creature invasion. The only saving grace for humankind is that these creatures are blind and can hunt people only if they hear them. It is this weakness that has allowed the Abbott family to survive. Evelyn and Lee Abbott (played by Emily Blunt and John Krasinski) try to raise their deaf daughter Regan (played by Millicent Simmonds) and their two sons Marcus and Beau (played by Noah Jupe and Cade Woodward) in a world where, according to one of the movie trailers, they live by one rule: Never make a sound. The plot of A Quiet Place may seem far-fetched, but the film’s unusual approach of giving horror the silent treatment works surprisingly well.
The main strength of this film is its psychological horror. It succeeds in turning ordinary everyday activities into a terrifying experience. In the Abbotts’ world, making a loud noise could mean the end of their lives. It does not matter whether the noise was produced intentionally or accidentally. Something as simple as knocking over a lantern causes the family great alarm, and they wait in fear wondering if one of those creatures will come looking for them.
I also like seeing characters in a horror film who are smart and thoughtful and not just mindless victims bemoaning their fate. I could tell by their facial expressions and actions that the members of the Abbott family were frustrated and tired of living under a creature-imposed code of silence, but they managed to find a way to provide food, shelter, and medical care for themselves despite the limitations of having to be silent around the clock.
The family develop a system of living that is intriguing to watch. To minimize the noise they make, they do things such as communicating with sign language, walking barefoot, and eating on leaves instead of plates. Their farm is a survivalist’s dream spread that contains shelves of fruits and vegetables preserved in mason jars, acres of crops, and silos for grain storage. Lee even spends his spare time trying to make a hearing aid device for Regan.
Perhaps their way of life is a little too intriguing to watch, however. At times, the survivalist theme and family conflict in A Quiet Place seems to overshadow the horror. As I watched the film, I sometimes became so caught up in Evelyn’s daily struggles to care for herself and her family while pregnant and Regan’s troubled relationship with her father that I forgot I was watching a horror movie.
What was not so interesting to watch are the scenes that involve the family’s close encounters with the creatures. With a few exceptions, there is nothing unique about them. The main characters employ the familiar “living statue” survival technique of not moving and not breathing too deeply while the creatures search for them literally only a few feet or inches away, which is a plot device that has been used in many other movies. For me, the close encounter scenes with the creatures in A Quiet Place bring to mind some of the main characters’ close encounter scenes with aliens in War of the Worlds starring Tom Cruise.
The creatures themselves are also not impressive to see close up. The special effects that were used to create them are just average and look like a CGI mishmash of various insect and lizard parts. The creatures look fake to me. Perhaps they might have been more frightening to look at in an artificial urban setting, but their phony quality stands out against the corn fields, forests, and rural farmhouse setting of the movie.
There are some practical considerations that I would have liked to see the movie address as well. Could the family realistically walk around barefoot in winter? What about when it rains? Could they slog through the mud without making a sound? Or do they just not leave the house during those times? How do they handle unexpected fits of sneezing, coughing, and hiccups, especially if they are outside and have nothing to muffle the sound? I don’t remember seeing any of the family members sniffle once in the entire movie.
I admire A Quiet Place’s unusual way of creating suspense and its well-developed characters. A Quiet Place is a step above the trendy horror movies of recent years that bombard you with lots of screaming and gore but leave you dissatisfied with their empty characters and story lines. I am a little disappointed that the horror fizzles out toward the end of the movie with some fairly generic close encounter scenes with the creatures, but overall I think this a good movie for people who enjoy watching psychological horror films.