What I'm Watching: A Quiet Place
I am not a fan of horror movies. Not by a long shot. "Get Out" may be the only other movie classified as a horror in the last several years I have willingly – excitedly – agreed to watch in theaters. "Crimson Peak" does not count. No matter how much I adore Jessica Chastain or Tom Hiddleston. But when referring to my mental notes from a Brit-Lit class several years ago, I would not call "A Quiet Place" a horror film so much as I would call it a terrifying thriller. Without unnecessary violence or gore, it relies on leaving the audience in suspense - in fear of the unknown. There's a difference between knowing what's around the corner and our imaginations running wild because we don't.
What drew me to "A Quiet Place" was the movie’s premise which couldn’t be any simpler than its logline: A family of four is forced to live in silence while hiding from creatures that hunt by sound. Now, I can understand limiting verbal communication and the use sign language instead, but day to day life is not easy to do in silence. If you’ve ever tried to be quiet at home while others are sleeping, you know exactly what I mean. Suddenly attempting to be courteous turns into a huge mission because for some reason or another, everything you do is somehow louder than usual. Mix in the idea of monsters with an acute sense of hearing, I’m curious how that could be a feasible existence. On top of that, I did see some of the press for the film including an article by the Hollywood Reporter talking about the filmmakers’ push for a deaf actress to play the teenage daughter, Reagan (Millicent Simmonds) and an interview with Emily Blunt on The Late Late Show with James Corden where she confesses she asked her husband, writer/director/actor John Krasinski, to fire her friend from the lead female role because of how much she loved the script. She’s excited, I’m excited. Sold. Going.
This movie is an exceptional execution of what is preached to many screenwriters like myself as gospel in filmmaking: show; don’t tell. The careful thought put into what is seen or unseen, heard or unheard, is exactly why this film accomplishes the thrills that it does. You are forced to pay closer attention to what’s happening before you but not in a way that feels like a task. I’m looking at you "Cloverfield". This is also masterfully done in the performances of the actors involved with facial expressions and body language being of paramount importance in the absence of tone and volume in a character's voice. With my only prior knowledge of Krasinski being the few episodes of The Office I've seen, I was thoroughly impressed him in this dramatic role and I am excited to gain more familiarity with his past and future work.
I'm glad that there is no drawn out explanation via dialogue between the characters or a voiceover of any kind to tell the audience that the creatures are aliens nor is there any “This is the state of the world now” speech. Instead, we see headlines splashed across multiple publications essentially telling the viewer exactly what needs to be known in order to understand what happens on screen and reveals more information in reel time to the audience as the characters learn it, again harkening back to the element of the unknown I mentioned earlier.
SPOILER WARNING for the comments to follow.
It's worth noting the attempts of the Abbott family in the film to establish a sense of normalcy under extraordinary circumstances because at the center of it all, this is not only a story about survival but specifically about the survival of a loving family. This love between the characters if highlighted throughout the movie. We see it in Lee's (Krasinski) tireless efforts to make a cochlear implant for their daughter Reagan, in Evelyn's (Blunt) tutoring of their son Marcus (Noah Jupe), in Marcus' willingness to lure the aliens away from his mother alone in the dark, and in Reagan's rescue of Marcus in the grain tower. Their love for each other is unconditional. In one of the few lines of spoken dialogue, Evelyn asks Lee who they are if not parents who protect their children. It's at this point that I want to bring up a scene with Lee and Marcus returning home from fishing at the river only to encounter an older dead woman and her evidently grief-stricken husband. With her dead, the man essentially commits suicide by purposely letting out a scream for the monsters to hear, taking him to his grave to join her. He's lost his love and his reason to go on. For the Abbotts, love is why they have survived. It's who they are. It's what they live for - and what they're willing to die for.
There were moments while watching the film where I found myself slightly frustrated with character decisions. Some, like Reagan handing her youngest brother the space shuttle ship after their father had just explained that he could not have it because of the danger it posed could be excused as it happens earlier on in the film and not quite so late in the experience of life after the invasion - even if it resulted in tragedy - while others were somewhat more confusing. Why didn't anyone do anything about that nail? Seriously! I get it, it had its purpose in the plot but still. How no one stepped on it prior to Evelyn's unfortunate incident is beyond me.
"A Quiet Place" is certainly a film I would watch again and if you haven't seen it already, I highly recommend you check it out. If you have had a chance to catch it, let me know your thoughts in the comments below!