Last year, Jordan Peele’s “Get Out” marked a major tectonic shift for the horror genre, allowing the troves of eager ticket-buyers who saw it to revel in the wicked twists and turns in ways no horror film has done in years. People could laugh at its underlying absurdity and provide rousing commentary without ruining the experience for others. “A Quiet Place” is cut from the same crowd-pleasing cloth, yet its ambitions and intentions are inverted.
John Krasinski, doing triple-threat work as director, co-writer, and actor, wants us to have as much fun as we can watching his first foray into Horror, only he asks us to participate in its grim goodness through dead silence. The best part? He wins his audience this way within mere seconds. Passionate moviegoers need not fear the giggles and muffled ringtones from groups of kids who will no doubt catch a late-night showing during its first week.
Krasinski’s film descends from a long line of creature features, including “Alien,” “The Thing,” and “Jurassic Park.” In fact, it almost plays out like a feature length version of the Raptor kitchen scene from Spielberg’s classic. The name of the game is survival through near-total silence, but our protagonists have one advantage. The beasts, which are of unknown origin, hunt by sound, but they are totally blind. In technical terms, the creatures’ inability to see grants Krasinski the opportunity for plenty of claustrophobic tension.
“A Quiet Place” also asks for quite the suspension of disbelief in terms of narrative contrivances. The centerpiece of these logically flawed devices is, at the end of it all, a total setup for the film’s biggest nail-biter. That being said, it’s one hell of a nail-biter! Krasinski demonstrates a surprising aptitude for constructing scenes like these. The thrill of watching them only doubles when you realize that you’re able to ignore such contrivances. Some solid work from the cast is a huge plus. In particular, Emily Blunt (Krasinski’s real-life spouse playing his on-screen spouse) reaches new heights in a performance crafted with such delicacy. It’s also a visual treat, with cinematographer Charlotte Bruus Christensen doling out all the dread she can by playing with red lights, shadows, and pitch-black corners.
At just 90 minutes, “A Quiet Place” is a lean, mean, nerve-wracking machine, and not a second of it is wasted. Krasinski smartly avoids overselling the dreary post-apocalyptic setting, the plight of the characters, or the bloody aftermath of the creatures, which look a bit too much like something you might see in “Stranger Things” or a “Cloverfield” movie. (Fun fact: the writers briefly considered inserting the film into the “Cloverfield” anthology.) “A Quiet Place” is just a slice of the bigger picture, but one that shows you just enough to understand the conflict and root for the characters. If there’s one reason to see the film, it must be for the uncanny amount of silence from everyone you experience it with.