ALEXANDRIA, La. (KALB) - ................................................oh sorry, I was trying to be quiet with the review. Oops.
Image Source: Paramount Pictures / MGN
Whispers: “A Quiet Place” serves as one of the freshest and most well-directed thriller/horror experiences to date by successfully reinventing the use of one of horror’s biggest tropes: the silence before the scare.
Sometime before the present story, alien creatures arrived on earth that are blind as a bat but have a heightened sense of sound and speed to track their prey. These creatures appear to have wiped out the majority of the population (both human and animal alike) with only a few scattered families remaining, including the protagonist unit of the Abbot family. This family attempts to survive on limited resources and deal with each other’s family drama all the while having to remain as silent as possible to hide from 3 creatures lurking in their woods.
The gimmick of the film is that characters have to refrain from all loud noises in order to survive. Even the simple sounds of walking on leaves or creaky floors and even moving plastic board game pieces could attract unwanted attention. If that can get you killed, image what knocking over a lantern could do. Or you could also try to give birth to a baby. The idea of using silence to heighten fear is nothing new to horror, but in “A Quiet Place” the technique is made even more effective as now ANY sound is deadly and scary. It practically makes the use of jump scares seem less lazy again.
Since the characters can’t make even make heavy foot noises, the use of speech is rendered useless and characters must rely on American Sign Language as the main form of communication...translated to the audience via subtitles. This was first used efficiently on the big screen with Fox’s new Planet of the Ape trilogy for the ape to ape dialogue. With a few exceptions where characters are near spots making natural noises louder than their voices, this is a dialogue-free film. One could compare the film to that of a foreign made one with subtitles or even the old silent pictures of the 1920s. “A Quiet Place” relies mostly on visuals and saves its moments of sound like it is a limited resource. I am sure some audiences will find this boring after some time...because lord forbid there be even an ounce of patience left in the general audience today. Still, I can safely say “A Quiet Place” handles these techniques to the highest level of quality.
This is made possible from director and lead star John Krasinski who proves that both behind the camera and in front of it, he is more than just “Jim from the Office”. Krasinski helms the film in a very Hitchcockian manner or even that of Kubrick’s “The Shining”. It’s deliberate and slow, allowing for the audience to take in the atmosphere and the rules of the world in a smart way. The audience is treated with the respect to put all the pieces together by delivering the exposition only in visual or implied means. In a sense, the lack of dialogue forces the film to use old-fashioned storytelling, which makes for good storytelling overall.
The only complaints are mostly nitpicks based around certain moments of character behavior. Some characters do things that you really would think they would be smart enough not to, such as keeping a toy that literally was just established as a noisemaker or running off into the woods by yourself to throw a private hissy fit (though to be fair, the whole “unrealistically foolish decisions” thing seems to be a common trope for horror movies in general).Then there was the plot point of the mom of the family being pregnant. In a world where noise is literally death, why would you risk getting pregnant (it is clear she got like this AFTER the world went into a mute hell)? Even more so...how did you manage to “procreate” without making noise? On second thought, perhaps the less we know the better…
Still, these are little nitpicks that are basically overshadowed by all the greatness around them. “A Quiet Place” takes a seat right next to last year’s “It” as modern-day proof that horror can still be superb. But if you feel the need to give a standing ovation...remember: silent claps.
P.S. In reference to the people that sat behind me in the theater: If you saw the film prior to bringing your friends to see it again...perhaps don’t say what’s about to happen. That would be greatly appreciated, please.