This horror film with a beautifully simple premise had many things going for it, but its dramatic shortcomings and a few too many contrivances stopped me from loving it as much as many other people seem to.
One thing in movie’s favour is the way it wastes no time plunging the viewer into the story with minimum exposition. An eerily silent street in a small town and a title card saying “Day 89” is all you need to know that some terrible disaster had struck. A family of five is moving through the abandoned store, scavenging for supplies; they communicate with each other in sign language and are very, very careful not to make any sound. You find out the reason for their behaviour in a brutal later scene, when the couple’s youngest child decides to play with a noisy toy he’s found at the store and is instantly snatched by a horrible creature.
These giant extraterrestrial predators have apparently wiped out most of the population in no time. Though blind, their murderous sense of hearing means as soon as you make a sound they’ll come after you with their many razor-sharp teeth. When we see the family again, it’s over a year later and grieving parents Evelyn and Lee (real-life couple Emily Blunt and John Krasinski, who also directed the movie) run an efficient hideout in the countryside. One of the film’s more clever contrivances is the fact that their eldest daughter is hearing impaired, so sign language is something the family had already had to learn. In this brave new muffled world, there’s even some room for normality, like board games and home schooling. However there’s a doozy of a challenge looming ahead with Evelyn being in the last stages of pregnancy; babies aren’t exactly known for staying quiet and there’s no anaesthetic to make birth easier.
A Quiet Place does a few things well with its intriguing central idea. With the dialogue kept to a minimum, the film has to rely on visual storytelling and acting, and delivers on both, with ever-excellent Blunt a particular standout. There are plenty of moments of nerve-wracking tension and effective jump scares that don’t feel obnoxious. I really liked the creature design and whatever part of the USA the movie takes place in, the countryside is lovely to look at.
The emotional aspect, however, is where the movie fell short for me: for all its dramatic setup, the character dynamics and interpersonal drama were surprisingly lackluster. You’d think that a loss of a child and another baby on the way would yield some good drama, but all it amounts to is some forced father-daughter tension that ends with a payoff that should have been emotional but wasn’t. Also, the lack of a proper resolution makes the ending feel abrupt, and while I’m generally a very forgiving viewer, a few things in this movie struck me as happening for no other reason than to put the characters in danger. I still enjoyed the movie ok, but it could have been better. Maybe the inevitable sequel will be an improvement.
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