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The world has been overrun by monsters. The creatures are blind, but have incredibly sensitive hearing. If you make any sound at all, they will find you, and kill you. Now, a little over a year into the invasion, a family survives by living a completely sound-free lifestyle. They communicate through sign language, use their hands when eating, and cover the footpaths around their house with sand. A year back, their youngest son was killed when he played with an electronic rocket toy. Now, they mourn his loss, and do their best to survive. And… that’s about it.
A Quiet Place is a movie I was very excited to see. First of all, it’s got a great concept; monsters that track you through sound, so you can’t ever make any noise. So much tension can be wrung out of that premise alone. On top of this, I was glad to see another comedian, John Krasinski, getting the chance to direct a horror movie. Jordan Peele did that last year with Get Out, and it totally worked. It was also cool to see Krasinski and his actual wife, Emily Blunt, playing a couple in a movie together. And, having watched the picture, I can tell you, they are easily the best part of the film. They’re the most experienced performers, and their chemistry is effortless. The child actors who play their kids are also very good, and definitely deserve credit for their work. And, technically, this film is competently crafted, with the editing, sound design and cinematography all working fine. So why, then, did I walk out of the theater not loving this film?
It all comes down to the fact that this movie is not a movie. It’s an idea. In my review for Downsizing, I talked about how some films get made just because their central concept is super original, even if the filmmakers don’t have a complete story mapped out when they start shooting. A Quiet Place has an interesting idea, a world where everyone needs to be silent because if they make noise, they’ll die, but not much else. You don’t really know anything about the main family, I don’t even think we learned their names, and they don’t really want anything concrete. They’re just kind of surviving. Yes, in real life, people don’t constantly pursue solid, tangible things, like lost arks, or the meaning of the word rosebud, and just kind of mosey along, but this is a movie. Characters need solid, tangible things to achieve, otherwise we’re just kind of watching them shuffle along, aimlessly, for two hours. And that’s a large part of this movie; watching this family just live their lives, but without sound. Now, granted, every now and then, someone will drop something, or something will break, and then the creatures will show up, and it’ll be super intense. Those sequences are awesome. It’s just, the rest of the time, not much is happening, and, honestly, the main family is kind of boring. As I said, we know next to nothing about them. They don’t really have personalities. And while you could make the argument that thats’ the point, they’re meant to be a broad stand-in for every family in peril, you can have characters in monster movies with distinct quirks. Case and point; Bong Joon-Ho’s The Host. All the various members of the Park family are extremely unique, and distinct from one another. The Aunt, Doona Bae, is a super-competitive olympic archer, the Father, Song Kang-Ho, is a lazy, neglectful pothead, the Uncle, Park Hae-Il, is an alcoholic, disillusioned former student radical, etc. They have personalities. You can tell them apart. I couldn’t tell you anything about the family in A Quiet Place, other than that the daughter is deaf. That’s not good.
Still, the film’s interesting central premise, strong performances, and intense scenes of suspense do elevate it, slightly, above other “idea” movies. Did I love it? No. Will I ever go to see it again? Probably not. But if you want to go to the theaters, and watch some intense, well-staged suspense scenes, maybe give it a look. As for me, I’ll never think about it again.