Wednesday, April 25, 2018

A Quiet Place (2018) rings in another exciting wave of terror

Platinum Dunes / Sunday Night
Platinum Dunes / Sunday Night
For the past few years nailbiting and bloodcurdling movies like The Witch, It, and Get Out have reinvigorated the horror genre. Though it's never been a favorite of mine, the latest suspenseful flick A Quiet Place's continues to make you think twice about where the genre will take us next.

This review contains spoilers - please read at your own risk.
A family fights for survival in a post-apocalyptic world where monstrous aliens hunt by sound. Anything from talking to starting up a car is the difference between life and death. Evelyn (Emily Blunt) and Lee (John Krasinski struggle to protect their unborn baby and two children Marcus (Noah Jupe) and Reagan (Millicent Simmonds) after their youngest son Beau is incidentally killed by one of the creatures.

More than a pure horror film A Quiet Place is an intense family drama, focusing on how the parents are trying to shield their kids from the world's dangers and grieving their loss. From the get-go, the cast exudes a terrific chemistry as their characters blame themselves for what happened to Beau - his parents for not taking better precautions and prevent the attack; his brother Marcus who was ill at the time and caused the family to make a run to the pharmacy; his sister Reagan for aiding Beau with the toy that accidentally made noise. What happens to Beau affects how they move forward, especially Evelyn becoming pregnant and trying to make their isolated environment as homely as possible, and Lee loving Reagan no matter what happened to Beau but removes himself greatly to find more ways of keeping them safe. While many will question how the rest of the world has survived, I enjoyed that the film acts as a bubble around this family and you're only concerned about their well-being (It's not like studios aren't already planning sequels and spin-offs anyways...)

Underneath the family's grief lies the suspense which creeps in through sound and environment Because horror movies ask us to suspend our disbelief to believe in killer clowns and supernatural beings, the atmosphere relies entirely on hearing or what you don't hear, and the swift brutal attack by monsters who seemingly can't be defeated. A Quiet Place has made movie theaters more immersive than usual, where you're scared to cause any distraction that might harm the characters. The film's intensity stayed with me driving home late at night, making me scared that the music in the car and the sound of my garage door was too loud; that's the power of a good movie to me in general.

Despite not being a fan of the horror genre, Krasinski as director, co-writer, and actor created a film that stays with you. By taking inspiration from his marriage to Emily Blunt and fears of being a good parent, the predators can be read in a variety of ways for everyone. From the old man in the woods screaming to be killed to Marcus timing the fireworks as Evelyn gives birth, and Lee using his voice to save his kids from one of the monsters, so much can be said with the way noise is used as the grim reaper or a saving grace. I took the silence as an act of invisibility from the creatures who may represent greater threats (political, social, economical, etc.), and if the family stays quiet enough they won't be harmed. But of course, there's always going to be another monster and they have to learn to rise above them. Of course, it can also just be thought of as a regular monster flick too. Whatever his own analogy is, Krasinki put a lot of heart towards this movie and it truly works.

Though the movie doesn't solely feel like a creature-feature, Krasinski creates good cliff-hanging sequences and a satiable amount of jump-scares. From Aliens to Cloverfield, and Jurassic Park in particular, there's definitely influences lingering throughout. Also, by going along with Reagan on this journey, wonderfully played by an actress with deafness Millicent Simmonds, the sound is often tuned out so we can hear the world from her perspective. The film beautifully represents her life and what she goes through, giving her the opportunity to teach the cast how to sign and inspiring movie goers to learn American Sign Language.

As a 'pure' horror movie though, that same suspension of disbelief that makes the film refreshing and hypnotizing also faces some hurdles. On occasion, the writing falls flat, and the story becomes heavy-handed in showing what's going to happen before it happens and leads to instances where details could've been tighter: Evelyn not investigating what tore her laundry bag open even though they walk everywhere barefoot and the family not having a special meeting place in case they were ever separated are two scenes that come to mind. These were necessary in building tension, anticipation, and dread, but they also felt rather forced considering that the beginning of the movie sets up mistakes they have the time and experience to correct the longer they survive.

While I accept those imperfections as just apart of the story as it is, the central plotline that weakens the script for me was the conflict between Reagan and Lee escalating to his sacrifice. As Evelyn goes into labor, the script feels like it goes out of its way to divide everyone up through a generalization of "kids will be kids". Partially I believe Lee "killing himself" is Krasinski's way of saying to Blunt he'd give his life to keep their kids safe *knock on wood*. It's a beautiful sentiment (and symbolically works - Reagan's implants are a weapon to defeat the aliens). But it's also been a considerable amount of time since Beau's death (at least a year or so), and running off to leave her pregnant mom at home alone (which eventually leads her and Marcus to run around the farm with monsters on the loose because she doesn't believe her dad wants to find her after he gave her new implants to protect her) is too reckless. For me, at times it didn't seem that they learned a lot from Beau's death and their survival came down to luck instead of layered worldbuilding.

The film works for me on a lot of levels; it's filled with drama and suspense, keeping me on the edge of my seat. Krasinski's directing has improved from past projects, and A Quiet Place's success is unique to achieve, especially with a cast and atmosphere that's deliciously creepy. The fact that the terror of making noise spread into theaters definitely makes it a movie (and meme) event of the year and makes me reconsider what horror has to offer. But a perfect movie like a lot of critics claim it to be? a masterpiece? That's a little overboard. From his smaller known directed features to this one, Krasinski at least hits it off with a bang instead of a whisper.

Rating: ★★☆
Have you seen A Quiet Place? What did you think?

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