Last year, critics adored Trey Edward Shults’ horror-drama It Comes at Night. Yet, many complained about the film’s lack of a villainous other, an issue of which director John Krasinski’s dystopian creature-feature, A Quiet Place, cannot be accused. Although different films – obReviously – there are similarities. Shults’ post-apocalyptic narrative concerned a monster born of paranoia, and of human residence, whereas this tale manifests it’s nightmarish horrors in the form of a creature of imitative design.
Earth has met its demise. The arrival of mysterious and violent creatures has essentially led to the annihilation of mankind. The streets are abandoned and tangled in a mess of the conflicts that have led to the deaths of millions. Amidst these eerie echoes of carnage, a family silently gather supplies in a forsaken store. They communicate through sign language, and a newspaper headline informs us that it is in fact sound that draws these devilish beings. Silence is survival; every movement could prove fatal, and the death of one of Evelyn (Emily Blunt) and Lee’s (Krasinski) children in the film’s outset immediately enforces such a sense of sever danger. They have contrived a calculated routine to ensure their safety, living in fear and stillness – however, human error and accident is inevitable, and this leads to the escalating terrorisation of our surviving protagonists.
The film’s exposition showcases Krasinski’s talent for creating tension. The creatures that plague the family are a relatively unseen threat in the opening sequence, but the glimpse audiences are given is rather terrifying. For the most part, the narrative continues to feel engagingly strained for the duration of the first act. This intriguing threat of unknown origin could appear at any time, and the anticipation of their sudden arrival is nerve-shreddingly stimulating. Sadly, when the monsters begin to persistently surface, their familiar design eliminates the feeling of peril that had been achieved through their former obscurity. Their uninspired appearance recalls the recent model of the Demogorgon; one of the antagonists from the hit Netflix series, Stranger Things. As more noises are made, the emergence of the creatures becomes more frequent, and this spirals into the repetition of a variation on the same sequence. A reliance on jump scares is then introduced, and the creepy imagery exhibited in the introductory scenes diminishes into adventurous silliness in the vein of Steven Spielberg’s Jurassic Park. While this may not sound like a total condemnation, it simply feels like a deviation from the rigid atmosphere that had taken skill on Krasinski’s behalf to establish.
Most insulting, however, is the protagonists abandonment of their own rules. There are inconsistencies regarding the degree of sound they feel they can make without exposing their vulnerability. The decision of the parents to have another child seems absolutely preposterous, and this is merely one of the mistakes the characters make, although admittedly, it’s the most foolishly idiotic. It is a way to raise themes of parenting in a hostile world, and also a weary plot device, but above all, it feels totally irrational. The entire family begin as characters that we can invest in through our sympathy for them. Their situation is nightmarish, but as their actions become less and less cautious, our connection to them becomes as simple as feeling sorry for them; their fate becomes less important, however, as the narrative progresses into fast-lane thrills. The location certainly sustains interest – the corn fields recall the locale of M. Night Shyamalan’s Signs – a far superior home-invasion horror. Visually, it remains appealing throughout, and competent use of music aid the film in a direction that, although sometimes monotonous, feels prepared and consequential.
A Quiet Place brings nothing new to the genre, but in the realm of the generic monster movie, it remains fairly entertaining with the odd authentic scare thrown into the mix. Contrary to its general critical reception, this is far from 2018’s horror film to herald.