Hyperbole time: A Quiet Place is the most effective horror movie I’ve seen in a theater since 10 Cloverfield Lane (feel free to point out any flicks I’ve forgotten). Naturally, as a cinephile and aspiring filmmaker, my first instinct is to try and learn from it: where does writer/director/star (Jesus, when did the guy find enough time to eat and sleep?) John Krasinski succeed where so many others fall short?
First and foremost, he establishes the rules of the setting early on. The premise is simple: similar to the Graboids from the Tremors series, the monsters du jour hunt via sound—in other words, if you make noise, you die. It’s an easy concept to communicate visually, allowing Krasinski to jump straight into the story without wasting an excessive amount of time on exposition.
From there, he introduces obstacles. Beyond the inherent peril of silently navigating a largely uninhabited world, our hero’s daughter (played by Millicent Simmonds) is deaf, meaning she has to be especially cautious in how she interacts with her surroundings. More pressingly, his wife (Emily Blunt) is heavily pregnant, and the challenge of both delivering and raising a newborn baby under their current circumstances generates much of the film’s suspense.
Most importantly, he raises the stakes by carefully developing his characters. As the plot progresses, it becomes clear that the daughter blames herself for the terrible tragedy glimpsed in the opening scene, and is convinced that her father no longer cares about her; for his part, the father is too focused on the immediate danger to offer her the emotional support she needs. This smaller, more personal conflict pays off as the narrative approaches its climax, ensuring that the viewer is fully invested in the family’s struggle to survive.
Mix these ingredients together, and you get one hell of a satisfying cinematic meal. Krasinski has stated in interviews that he’s not a huge fan of horror, but I sincerely hope that he sticks with the genre; he’s got a real knack for it.
[Originally written April 9, 2019.]