If you’ve been paying attention to the horror scene lately, you’ll know that A Quiet Place ushered in a bold new creative direction for the genre: movies about monsters that kill you if you do a certain thing. This is an idea that’s just rife with potential. So far we have A Quiet Place, which is about monsters that kill you if you make noise, Bird Box which is about monsters that kill you if you look at them, and The Silence which is about monsters that kill you if you, uh...make noise.
Maybe it doesn’t have that much potential after all.
(Yes, The Silence is based on a book that came out in 2015, but I’m not going to let that spoil the joke)
At least we got one good movie out of the mini-trend. 2018’s A Quiet Place takes place in the immediate aftermath of a worldwide invasion by terrifyingly fast, practically indestructible creatures who can’t see but have an incredibly advanced sense of hearing. Worldwide government has collapsed and in well under a year humanity has been reduced to isolated pockets of survivors who must be constantly vigilant against making any loud sound, as doing so will bring any nearby creature scuttling from their hiding places.
Our protagonists are the Abbott family--Evelyn and Lee, their deaf thirteen year old daughter Reagan and their younger sons Marcus and Beau--who have managed to create a sustainable and even idyllic existence at a farmhouse in the countryside, taking elaborate measures to mask all sound while growing crops and fishing for sustenance. This arrangement is severely tested by both familial strife and the rapidly-approaching due date of Evelyn’s pregnancy and soon Lee’s attempts to find the creature’s weakness are needed if the family is to survive a single harrowing night.
So this is fairly high-concept, and unlike a lot of high-concept horror movies, A Quiet Place doesn't waste its premise. Given the central idea revolves around both silence and monsters popping out of the woodwork any time that silence is broken, you might expect it to be wall to wall jumpscares. There are some, but the movie also employs some more creative Hitchcockian "bomb under the table" scenarios, including a particularly good one involving a nail sticking out of a floorboard.
But to be honest, the main draw of A Quiet Place isn't the horror, which isn't terribly present even at the best of times (this is one of those "horror" movies that could better be described as a thriller). The movie's big appeal is seeing how the Abbotts manage to adapt to this strange new existence, and in that regard the movie doesn't disappoint. From small touches (the kids play Monopoly with felt pieces instead of the noisy metal ones we all know and love) to more involved strategies (the extremely convoluted scheme the family has cooked up to mask the inevitably-noisy birth of Evelyn’s baby), it's all really interesting. I especially like that the movie never really has exposition explaining any of it, trusting that the reader will figure out what's going on.
Of course, if you want to you can nit-pick the film to death. For example, you could point out that both the level of sound required to draw the creatures' ire and the speed with which they can reach specific locations varies wildly from scene to scene, or that a lot of the sound-dampening techniques employed by our heroes don't make a lot of sense.
But I think that would be unfair. A Quiet Place is a fun, creative romp with some good performances, and I enjoyed it a whole bunch.