Format: DVD from Cortland Public Library on The New Portable.
One of the problems with being regularly 12-18 months behind on movies is that I run a lot of risk of spoilers. I knew, for instance, the basics of Avengers: Infinity War long before I got around to watching it. I’ve gotten surprisingly good at paying attention to what is getting a great deal of positive attention and then avoiding as much as I can about those movies until I get around to them. I was pretty good in that respect with A Quiet Place.
The word on A Quiet Place was that it was scary and really inventive. I agree that there are some great scares here. As for its inventiveness, it is essentially a new spin on some older ideas. There are elements of films like Don’t Breathe in this. More specifically, this is what Signs could have and should have been. In other words, this is original only in the details. That’s not a complaint in any real sense. It’s essentially the same thing I said about Get Out last year, and I liked that movie a hell of a lot.
Anyway, like a lot of good horror, there’s not a great deal (or any) backstory for A Quiet Place. The opening scene gives us the Abbott family. They are scavenging in a drugstore after what appears to be a significant apocalyptic event. Youngest child Beau (Cade Woodward) finds a toy that he appears to like, but his father Lee (John Krasinski) signs to him that it’s too loud. Beau’s sister Regan (Millicent Simmonds) gives him back the toy when their father isn’t looking, and Beau sneaks the batteries back into the toy. Walking home, Beau activates the toy, much to the horror of the rest of his family, including middle child Marcus (Noah Jupe) and mother Evelyn (Emily Blunt). And before Lee can reach him, Beau is snatched away by a huge creature.
And that’s really all the backstory we get. The Earth has been invaded (possibly) or visited (maybe) or has simply evolved (kinda) or released from somewhere (who knows?) these large, seemingly indestructible creatures. The creatures are evidently sightless and hunt entirely by sound. Thus, the family speaks entirely in sign language, has the house carefully marked with places where they can walk without causing a board to creak, and have noiseless versions of just about everything in a normal household.
There are really only three plot points for the entire film. The first is that, after the intial couple of scenes, Evelyn is pregnant. Because this is a movie, this is going to be Chekov’s pregnancy—she’s going to deliver this baby before the movie is over. The second is that Regan is deaf and has cochlear implants, which will become more and more important as the movie progresses. The third and most story-based plot point is that Regan believes she is responsible for Beau’s death and also believes that her father holds her responsible as well.
There’s a great deal to like with this film, but it’s not the revelation that many people seemed to suggest that it was and would be. In the first place, it’s really short. The movie runs just over 90 minutes, and that includes a substantial credits sequence. I imagine that it was difficult to draw out some of the story here plausibly without a great deal of spoken dialogue. It could have been done here, and probably should have been. There are only a couple of events that really happen in the film, and the story could have stood another 15-20 minutes of character and world building. Another problem is that nail in the stairs. The stairs down to the family basement contains a nail that sticks up in the middle of one of the stairs. It’s not sticking up a little—it’s a couple of inches high, and it’s simply left there. This becomes important in the film, and it’s something that should have (and could have) been handled by the characters.
The biggest problem, though, is the nature of the creatures themselves. We’re led to believe that they are directed by their hearing and that their hearing is incredibly powerful. They creatures are able to pinpoint something and attack it based on the slightest sound. To me, that would mean that breathing should attract them as well. So why doesn’t it? Because that would spoil the rest of the plot.
I need to talk about the monsters for a second, but I’d like to do that under a spoiler tag.
*** SHHH! ***
The monsters are another place where A Quiet Place was supposed to be inventive, but once again, we have an amalgam of things from other movies. The creatures are a little bit of the things from Pitch Black, a touch of Audrey II from Little Shop of Horrors and a hell of a lot of the Cloverfield monster.
*** YOU CAN TALK NOW ***
So, I have some complaints, but they are honestly relatively minor. I’d love to see this run longer, because it could stand the space. It’s ultimately worth a watch, but not the rewrite of the genre we were led to believe it was.
Why to watch A Quiet Place: A very smart horror story.
Why not to watch: Some potentially problematic plotholes.