I have no idea how John Krasinski’s A QUIET PLACE actually came about, but in my head it’s by way of apology from 13 HOURS: THE SECRET SOLDIERS OF BENGHAZI director and Platinum Dunes boss Michael Bay to Krasinski’s wife Emily Blunt for that year Krasinski had to spend super pumped up – a body shape she apparently loathed - to play a soldier in Bay’s film. It probably had nothing to do with the fact that Krasinski and his co-writers (Scott Beck and Ryan Woods) had crafted an excellent, simple-yet-novel genre tale encased in an attractively affordable production budget. It’s all about Blunt’s ability to throw frightening shade at parties. Probably.
With just his second feature as director, Krasinski - who also stars (and is still best known as Jim from the US version of The Office) – delivers a punchy, carefully measured and economical film. Opening just a few months after mysterious creatures have appeared and decimated the rest of Earth’s animal population, we only ever know as much as Krasinski and Blunt’s five-strong Abbott family (their three children played by Millicent Simmonds, Noah Jupe and Cade Woodward) – most importantly that the monsters hunt by sound. They have adapted to life in silence quicker than most, though – the eldest child, Regan, is deaf.
The value of sound as a cinematic device is ingeniously played with time and again, but the novelty never feels labored. Likewise, jump scares are present, but they rarely feel cheap or unearned (one of my pet hates in horror), and in that regard A QUIET PLACE may be my favourite since 28 DAYS LATER. It's a film with heart, but never loses sight that this is a genre that lives and dies by its set pieces. And what set pieces they are - Chekhov's gun may well be given a run for its money after this.
Charlotte Bruus Christensen’s luscious cinematography works in complete synch with Jeffrey Beecroft’s production design, and together they provide one of the film’s key hidden strengths: an immersive and always clear and quietly believable sense of geography of the family farm, where nearly all of the story takes place.
Then of course, the performances: Krasinski and Blunt are typically strong as the everycouple, while the kids are wonderfully real and rounded.
It’s not perfect. Krasinski and his co-writers fall prone to having characters make some (literally) unbelievably selfish choices for the sake of drama (and those set pieces), and similarly he's made some strange choices regarding chronology - there are moments where you can almost feel those behind the camera praying that the audience doesn’t solve in the film’s blessedly lean 90 minutes what it seems to be taking the characters years to figure out. Ordinarily the accusation would be that these choices are unearned, but here Krasinski & co. actually make up ground and have you forgiving them after the fact – a rare achievement.
There are those who will question the validity of a PG-13 horror film, but the rating is due to an absence of gore and swearing, not atmosphere and tension. A QUIET PLACE may not trouble the terror-meter on the scale of, say, THE DESCENT, but it's got enough grunt to give even seasoned horror fans a good workout, and is bound to remain on many a 2018 favourites list.
A QUIET PLACE is released April 5 in Australian, NZ and the UK, and April 6 in the US.