Let’s say human civilization is basically kaput and giant scythe-hand stealth-crab anthropoids roam the earth. They’re blind, but their huge, opalescent inner ears alert them to the presence of prey from miles off. They’re apparently invincible and have very, very short tempers.
If you’re the protagonists of A Quiet Place, John Krasinski’s new thriller, this is a great time to have a baby.
Krasinski and Emily Blunt star in this fun, brawny horror flick that has a surprisingly sugary heart and an ingenious gimmick. The film begins well after the creatures’ conquest. A man, his pregnant partner, and their son and daughter live in silence on an isolated farm, every aspect of their existence adapted to minimize noise: sand-covered trails, sign language, light and smoke signals, even cloth game pieces. But despite their ingenuity, the family must take increasingly drastic measures to protect themselves even as the pre-adolescent daughter, who’s deaf, rebels against her father.
Their everyday yet all-important routines are a neat device for ramping up tension during the exposition. At the preview screening, we were all flinching when a lamp upended, shushing a character who cried too loudly. But it’s during the moments of crises—particularly when Blunt starts giving birth at a very inconvenient time—that Krasinski really shows he can twist your nerves in a way that shuts down your critical faculties.
Good thing too, because A Quiet Place is not so strong in the plot department. Why are the creatures so mad? They don’t seem to eat anybody they kill, so… are they just really angry mutant librarians or something? Worse, there are moments of almost baffling corniness, as if the movie were afraid we might have missed the American film industry’s apotheosis of the nuclear family. With its rustling cornfields, rural-hippie costume design, and ardent sign-language declarations of parental love, A Quiet Place feels a little like a Rockwell painting overrun by H.R. Giger. Why wouldn’t Blunt risk the lives of her children to have another noisy infant? In American film, making more family is always a good idea.
But it’s okay! So much mainstream horror is middling or worse, and a flawed movie that has one or two perfectly scary sequences and some original ideas still sits comfortably in the top percentile. Just don’t be the asshole who forgets to turn their phone off.