A Quiet Place

 

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The actor-writer-director John Krasinski unleashes the bastard child of the Alien franchise in what must be the year’s most original and genuinely unnerving horror film.

 

Quiet Place, A

Hear all evil: Emily Blunt and Millicent Simmonds

  

It is proving to be a golden age for the horror film and John Krasinski’s A Quiet Place has just cranked up the genre another notch. Yet the premise of his movie – from a story by Bryan Woods and Scott Beck – is so simple. To save their lives, the protagonists must not make a sound. Here, the world has been invaded by an advanced life form, a high-speed killing machine which, although sightless, is abetted by a supernatural sense of hearing.

 

As in the recent It Comes at Night (2017), a nuclear family has holed itself up in a remote farmhouse the best to protect themselves from this novel, largely unseen threat. With virtually no dialogue, the film conveys everything it needs to in elegant narrative strokes, aided by newspaper headlines and the notes that Lee (Krasinski) has scribbled to himself on a whiteboard in the family cellar.

 

The film grips from the outset and instantly reduces the audience to an unfamiliar hush – so much so, that even a gulp from your neighbour might be deemed intrusive. You, like the characters on screen, had better not make a sound. Then, once Krasinski has lured us into an uneasy, breathless state of suspended animation, he unleashes the dogs of hell. Let’s just say that the suspense is unremitting.

 

John Krasinski, who previously directed the comedy-dramas Brief Interviews with Hideous Men and The Hollars, is one skilful manipulator. That is, he understands the tools of his trade. He recognises that cinema is predominantly a visual medium and has kept all talk to a minimum. He also exhibits uncommon courage by allowing the film’s lengthy silences to cast their own otherworldly spell. He has selected his actors well, too. As Lee, he himself cuts a dependable, sympathetic figure – the strong silent type (well, he would have to be, wouldn’t he?). As Lee’s wife Evelyn, Krasinski has cast his own wife, Emily Blunt, but has played down her sex appeal in favour of a more earthy, maternal look. But his great stroke of inspiration is to introduce the character of Regan, Lee and Evelyn’s daughter, who is deaf. While Regan is already familiar with the silent world in which her family has been plunged, she is the most vulnerable of all as she is unaware of the sounds that she herself makes. In a fluke of cinema distribution, the deaf actress Millicent Simmonds pops up in her second film this week, as she also plays the deaf girl in Todd Haynes’ enchanting Wonderstruck. Finally, there’s the twelve-year-old English actor Noah Jupe, who is proving to be something of a lucky charm for his directors. He was Matt Damon’s son in George Clooney’s Suburbicon, a consummate exercise in black comedy, and he was also in the Julia Roberts weepie Wonder, a veritable box-office hit and a canny, heart-wrenching commentary of what it is to be ‘different.’ And now he’s in the best horror film of the year.

 

A Quiet Place is that rare thing: an original genre piece with credible, sympathetic characters that is also very, very scary.

 

JAMES CAMERON-WILSON

 

Cast: Emily Blunt, John Krasinski, Millicent Simmonds, Noah Jupe, Cade Woodward, Leon Russom.

 

Dir John Krasinski, Pro Michael Bay, Andrew Form and Brad Fuller, Ex Pro John Krasinski, Screenplay Bryan Woods, Scott Beck and John Krasinski, Ph Charlotte Bruus Christensen, Pro Des Jeffrey Beecroft, Ed Christopher Tellefsen, Music Marco Beltrami.

 

Platinum Dunes/Sunday Night-Paramount Pictures.

90 mins. USA. 2018. Rel: 5 April 2018. Cert. 15.