A Quiet Place

(Krasinski, 2018)

A Quiet Place isn’t quite as deft as its champions purport it to be, but it has its merits. The Krasinski-directed horror outing is tense, visually engrossing, and a damn good time. However, I can’t help but think that the outpouring of praise for the film has something to do with a systemic undervaluation of horror films at large.

A Quiet Place is the story of a family (Krasinski, Emily Blunt & co.) who lives in complete silence due to a monstrous threat that is attracted to noise. The set-up is brilliantly simple. The first ten minutes, though predictable, set up the tone really well. The characters are clear, their motivations and relationships make sense, and the threat is seriously terrifying. The performances, though light on dialogue, are also noteworthy. Millicent Simmonds shines in her role as Regan (you didn’t know her name was Regan either, did you) and gives us the closest thing the movie has to a protagonist. Also, some light research will tell you that Simmonds gave script notes to give her character more complexity, which definitely improved the finished product. Another strength of the film is its monster design. Though some people have criticized the design as being too basic, I think it was one of the best parts of the film. The monster is blind and Regan is deaf, a contrast that makes for some great dramatic tension. The lack of sound in the film is really what differentiates it from other monster movies. Sound is often used in horror movies to scare the theatergoers. But where most films use loud noises and ominous music, this film uses silence. The scariest thing about this film is the idea that you always have to be quiet, even when the only thing you want to do is scream (or give birth… don’t get me started on that).

All that being said, the movie loses me a bit in the second half. At a certain point I stopped feeling scared and just started feeling anxious. Maybe it was my expectations going in (The Guardian called it “a nerve-shredding assault on the senses”), but it didn’t truly scare me after the first twenty minutes and it didn’t truly surprise me at all. Was it still entertaining? Well, yeah. But I don’t necessarily see it as the masterpiece that many critics have publicized it to be.

Many people will tell you that this is not your typical horror movie and that it is “smart.” Krasiniski’s name brings a decent amount of prestige, as does the casting of indie-darling Millicent Simmonds and superstar Emily Blunt. But by classifying A Quiet Place in this way, what are critics and audiences really saying about horror as a genre?

A Quiet Place has captured the hearts of horror and non-horror fans alike due to its perceived otherness. Much like last year’s Get Out, A Quiet Place has been deemed “worthy” of your time, despite its association with the genre. The problem with this praise is the underlying assumption that the horror genre is a flawed one. The same prejudices exist against science fiction, documentary, and even comedies (apparently nobody expected Blockers to be good for some reason). We’ve all heard this: “Oh, it was so good… for a horror movie.” We heard it about Get Out, we heard it about A Quiet Place, and we will likely hear it about Hereditary later this year. That qualification— “for a horror movie” —is an increasingly outdated way of looking at film. People (usually older people) throw their hands up at Get Out’s Academy Award nominations because it’s “good, but not Best Picture good.” Well what does that garbage even mean? The best movie I saw last year was Get Out— nothing entertained me more. But by putting these select genre films on a pedestal, we are (perhaps unintentionally) denigrating other great films that exist within those genres. But at the end of the day, this is a review for A Quiet Place.

So I do recommend you see A Quiet Place if you can, despite its narrative flaws. It is a well-made, thoroughly entertaining film that will make you jump, and sweat, and then laugh at how much it made you jump and sweat. ★★★★

David Merkle