A Quiet Place blends horror and drama in a silent world

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After the premiere of A Quiet Place at SXSW, the director of the film, John Krasinski, explained that he picked up the script after a simple speech: "What if it's a family, and they can not make noise, and you have to discover why? "This explanation goes a long way to illustrate the goals of A Quiet Place. The film achieves all the rhythms necessary for a direct horror film in a mysterious post-apocalyptic setting. But it is more effective as a portrait of four people who have built a deceptively peaceful life under the constant and inescapable threat of death.
A quiet place is open on its premise, but respecting the details. In the very near future, a sort of seemingly inaccessible spider-like monsters appear and annihilate most of humanity. While the creatures are blind, their hearing is so intense that a shattering plaque, the pounding of boots, or any speech on a whisper could attract them. Some humans survive, including an unnamed couple played by Krasinski and Emily Blunt (who are married in real life). The two retire to a country house with their son (Noah Jupe) and their daughter (Millicent Simmonds), and when they conceive another child, they begin to make elaborate preparations for the almost impossible task of raising the baby.
Any ordinary volume noise feels like a jump scare
The filmmakers mostly do not artificially amplify or silence the world, but the characters are so silent that any sound of ordinary volume becomes a fright. The family communicates with sign language and have reorganized every part of their environment to reduce noise. The trails are covered with sand and crossed barefoot. The plates are replaced by lettuce leaves. Monopoly tokens of metal and plastic are exchanged with felt and fuzzy balls. Hanging above all, they bear the blame for a single devastating failure: the death of the second son of the family, who was kidnapped after lighting a noisy toy in the forest.
A lot of movies, from the 60s and 70s, after the bomb dramas to their modern counterparts of the zombie pandemic, have explored the daily work of life after the apocalypse. But A Quiet Place feels genuinely different. It is not, like many of these films, the idea of ​​forging a safe space in a dangerous world. Food is plentiful, electricity is available and the only humans that seem non-violent. But there is no fortified bunker, the film suggests, it could face the monsters. They are a mostly invisible but absolutely unstoppable threat, with claws similar to crabs capable of crossing the metal and crushing the cement.
Seeing the family find ingenious ways to deal with that threat is the strongest element of A Quiet Place, and it is the saddest. The filmmakers set the story cleverly more than a year after the original disaster, and wrote characters who do not survive by luck or power, but by ingenuity and preparation. Instead of groping for discoveries that smart audiences have already made, the protagonists are usually one step ahead of the monsters, even if it is a small step.
& # 39; A Quiet Place & # 39; feels different from other post-apocalyptic survival dramas
But it is also clear how exhausting and impoverishing this hypervigilance has become, especially for children who are old enough to remember life before disaster, but young enough to be deformed by the constant sense of fear. Intruders with barbed teeth and razors are frightening, but it is almost more spooky to see the characters of Blunt and Krasinski prepare calmly to muffle the first cries of their newborn son. Being able to perfectly predict the behavior of the monsters also makes the failure seem unforgivable. The character of Simmonds, who is deaf, feels particularly responsible for the death of his brother: she gave him the toy and did not realize that he was in danger until it was too late. He creates a crack with his father that is played in a subtle but effective way, thanks to the strong performances, and almost without words, of the small cast.
The idea of ​​post-apocalyptic survivors who learn to live with a strange artificial restraint evokes the novel Bird Box, where an invasion of supernatural creatures forces people to navigate the blind world or risk going crazy if they see one of the things. (The film adaptation of Susanne Bier's Bird Box is scheduled for later in 2018.) But while Bird Box emphasizes the horror of the unknown, A Quiet Place is about characters trying to maintain human connections while diminishing their place in the world as much as possible, controlling each of its breaths to avoid disaster. The film does not spend much time on allegory or symbolism, but it is not difficult to find a broader metaphor about living under any oppressive force.
A feature film adaptation of that horror scene where a character hides in a closet and tries not to scream
A Quiet Place follows a relatively predictable arc of terror, and is based on familiar tropes for their scares. (It could be said that it is an extension of the feature film where a character hides in a closet and tries not to scream). This strategy works for most of the movie, when the goal is to make the viewers as tense as the characters in any way. And the filmmakers integrate old narrative clichés in a way that does not become insipid: a tablet of useful newspaper clippings that provide background information, for example, includes a headline clearly "this is what you need to know".
However, the approach fails near the end when the film leaps from premonition to total violence. The creatures seem practically listeners and omnipotent in the first scenes, but as the film progresses, they become more conventional and less dangerous enemies. From the beginning, some obvious omens and convenient developments of the plot prevent the story from becoming heavy. Towards the end, they lead to clear resolutions that feel undeserved. A quiet place seems to really want a cathartic victory for its characters, but it can not get one without undermining the broader premise. After all, it's supposed to be a family against a force that destroyed civilization, and the movie is better when the characters are not incredible, heroic exceptions.
Although some of its parts do not fit at all, A Quiet Place is a unique high-concept science fiction that is solidly based on human drama. Some horror films imbue a seemingly harmless place or object with the newly discovered danger. A quiet place may not make the public afraid to wear shoes or talk, but it could make those things look luxurious, albeit momentarily.
This review comes from the 2018 SXSW Film Festival. The Quiet Place is scheduled for release on April 6.

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