Who could have predicted that a team-up between actor-director John Krasinski, best known for is his role in the US sitcom The Office, and blockbuster mogul Michael Bay, on board here as producer, would be an early contender for the year’s strongest horror film? But as unlikely as it may seem, A Quiet Place is a knuckle-whitening, heebie-jeebie instilling triumph.
It’s doubly impressive as Krasinski’s past directing credits (the comedy-dramas Brief Interviews with Hideous Men and The Hollars) didn’t exactly garner much critical praise, nor did they in any way foreshadow a first-rate, 180° turn to the horror genre. Without giving too much away, his third directorial effort takes a familiar conceit – one family’s fight for survival in a post-invasion world – and makes it fresh in an admirably economic yet imaginative manner. The alien creatures – think the unholy union between Cloverfield’s big bad and Stranger Things’ Demogorgon – can only hunt by sound, thereby strongly enforcing certain basic and inviolable rules: no chatting, no machinery and no shoes indoors. That said, wouldn’t it be problematic if mummy (an excellent Emily Blunt) was expecting a ticking time bomb in the shape of a bundle of screaming joy?
The result is a taut and at times dizzyingly oppressive genre film that tackles typical monster flick tropes in thoughtful and dexterously paced ways. The film fully commits to the silent premise and avoids making it a gimmick by always justifying the sparse dialogue and gently lingering on subtle details that explain how the family have managed to survive up until now. There’s a merciful lack of unnecessary exposition, the cast are uniformly excellent (with special mention to deaf child actress Millicent Simmonds’ terrific turn) and Krasinski has a confident grasp on tone, never letting a few darkly playful flourishes threaten what could be the tensest film you’ll see all year. As if that weren’t enough, the filmmaker also orchestrates some pants-pissingly effective sequences that will fray every myelin sheath in your body. Particularly memorable is a tripwire-tense set piece in which water levels rise and a toothy antagonist is playing peekaboo: it’s a masterclass in suspense that is impressively low on tiresome jump-scares, and makes you want to immediately hand over the reins of the Alien franchise to Krasinski and tell him to go nuts.
Crucially with A Quiet Place, make sure you shell out for a trip to your nearest multiplex. There is no substitute for experiencing this engrossing ride in the darkness and with the kind of engulfing sound system that only a cinema can provide. The family’s enforced silence galvanises the tension but also intensifies the viewing experience by making the audience participants in their fear-drenched lives. These viewing conditions, alongside Erik Aadahl and co’s immaculate sound design, ensure you’re made aware of the tiniest sound, even your own contribution to the noise levels. A seat shuffle or stomach-grumble could well be heard, thereby creating a powerful sense of collective immersion. All that’s left to say is good luck, keep schtum, and God help anyone who thinks it’s a good idea to brazenly bring a rattling box of popcorn to this one.
A Quiet Place | Directed by John Krasinski (US, 2018), with Emily Blunt, John Krasinski, Millicent Simmonds, Noah Jupe. Starts April 12.
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