Kernel Rating: (4 out of 5)
MPAA Rating: PG-13 Length: 90 minutes
Age Appropriate For: 13+. This horror film about an alien race that tracks humans using sound is masterful in building suspense, and it may be quite scary for younger tweens. Many characters die, including children and the elderly, and although no deaths are directly shown onscreen, they are implied to be somewhat brutal and bloody. Also some scary sequences where children and adults are chased and attacked by the creatures; some gross-out moments, including someone stepping on a nail; the design of the creatures themselves is kind of disgusting, like gigantic, slimy, armored spiders; a woman goes into labor, and you see her water break and some blood spill; and there are some romantic moments between a married couple.
‘A Quiet Place’ is a tightly paced, compellingly acted horror film that delivers maximum impact without much bloodshed or much gore. The key here is the unceasing tension, a kind of persistent creepiness that burrows under your skin and stays there for the film’s entire run time.
By Roxana Hadadi
“A Quiet Place” is unrelenting. At a taut 90 minutes, the film never lets up—it sets you immediately in a world that is familiar to our own but fundamentally, disastrously changed; it effectively shows you the ruthlessness of those new conditions; and it presents protagonists you’ll root for as they face down what seem to be insurmountable odds. There isn’t much dialogue or gore, but “A Quiet Place” successfully builds its own universe of tension and danger by rejecting extraneous conversions and unnecessary bloodshed and instead embracing the emotional reactions and strategic smarts of its characters.
Some time in the future, an alien race has invaded Earth, and has used their exemplary hearing skills to track down and kill humans. They’re blind but their hearing is exquisite, and with super speed and an armored exterior, they’ve essentially conquered the world—only small pockets of humans remain, trying to live their lives in silence in order to survive.
That is what the Abbott family is trying to do in upstate New York: Father and husband Lee (John Krasinski, of "Aloha"), mother and wife Evelyn (Emily Blunt, of "My Little Pony: The Movie"), daughter and eldest child Regan (Millicent Simmonds), middle son Marcus (Noah Jupe, of "Wonder"), and youngest son Beau (Cade Woodward). They have their routines: they follow paths of poured sand around their farm and into town to muffle to their movements; they’re gluing newspapers in their basement to try and soundproof it; and every night Lee lights a fire on the top of his silo as a message to other families in their area, to let them know the Abbotts are still alright. They communicate mostly in American Sign Language not only because Regan is deaf but because it’s a way to stay quiet, and each night Lee works on fixing Regan’s broken Cochlear implant so that she can hear—not because humans are making much noise, but because an alien approaching would.
But an accident creates a deep rift between Lee and one of his children, and a year later, Evelyn is pregnant again, which creates a new kind of danger for the Abbotts. “Who are we if we can’t protect them?” Evelyn asks her husband. Yet even with all their preparations, can they survive?
“A Quiet Place” is Krasinski’s directorial debut, and he shows real promise here. The film builds tension so quickly because of the details Krasinski focuses on, like the paths of sand that lead into town from the Abbotts’ property, or the Abbott children creeping on tiptoe through an abandoned grocery store, or the looks of horror on everyone’s faces once an unexpected noise is heard. The film switches at times between what most of the characters hear, which is human silence but ambient noise, like corn fields moving around in the wind, and the total blankness that Regan experiences; that contrast is phenomenally effective at not only making clear the world the Abbotts are living in but in the difference between Regan and the rest of her family. That initial skill is what makes the film’s later reliance on using specific music to tease us of the aliens’ presence so disappointingly repetitive; that choice saps the film of some of the dramatic tension that it had previously done so well.
But there’s a lot here that is otherwise quite nuanced. All the performances are solid, but Blunt and Simmonds are particularly good, the former as a mother thoroughly committed to continuing to shower love and guidance upon her children despite whatever nightmarish circumstances they’re living in, and the latter as a girl approaching her teen years who not only feels out of place in the world, but also in her own family. They’re standouts, and a final scene that unites the two of them together against the aliens is a fist-pumping moment for the matriarchy.
Moments like that are what make “A Quiet Place” feel so intentional; there are so many well-considered elements, from the creature design of the aliens to action scenes that make good use of the farm where the Abbotts live, that show the care Krasinski put into his first film. It’s to our benefit. “A Quiet Place” is thrillingly engaging and wonderfully scary from start to finish.
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