‘A Quiet Place,’ intelligent, terrifying, kind of fun

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Silence is golden. In this creature-feature by John Krasinski (TV’s “Office”), silence is imperative. In a rare display of Hollywood restraint, Krasinski abandons the rules of the horror-thriller genre. Some might be disappointed to not see the typical dim-witted, scantily clad teens that inevitably wander into a gratuitous torrent of gore and violence.

Instead of the expected slasher-flick, the audience is treated to an intelligent and original storyline that deserves a wider audience than the typical fans of horror. In addition to Krasinski, who stars, directs, produces and was a co-writer, his real-life wife, Emily Blunt, offers a remarkable performance as his on-screen wife, Evelyn.

Together, Lee and Evelyn must fend for their family that includes teenage daughter Regan (Millicent Simmonds) who is deaf (deaf in real life) and Marcus (Noah Jupe, “Wonder”). The cast is brilliant, but the innovative fascination is the eerie silence. While struggling for a peaceful existence in this post-apocalyptic world, an inescapable threat of death is imminent by one wrong move or more importantly, one wrong sound.

As we learn, predatory beasts have overtaken the world. Apparently blind, they possess an advanced sense of auditory function allowing them to quickly and decisively locate and engulf their prey. Without dialog, the family uses sign language (subtitles included), but our focus is on their body language and range of emotion in their eyes.

We attentively watch the family’s survival instincts in a seemingly helpless situation. They methodically plan, execute and react in a heightened state of vigilance and tension. The taut storyline and dramatic performances are nerve-wracking and terrifying, yet compelling. The special effects are limited in quantity and quality, especially the cheesy monsters, but it doesn’t matter. The audience is riveted to every scene.

Watching in a full theater, the audience was deathly silent, probably in fear of alerting the beasts to this unfortunate family. There was no talking, no crinkling of candy wrappers and heavily muted coughs. For long periods, there was no noise in the theater, other than periodic jump screams and shrieks from well-timed scenes of panic or terror.

The story begins with no narrative or textual explanation of what happened to the world, as we know it. We only see this seemingly modern day family cautiously and quietly rummaging through picked over food and supplies in the abandoned stores of a small deserted town. We then learn all too quickly what happens if and when an unwanted noise or clatter alerts their horrid nemesis. They have our attention.

Imagine a situation where you need to cough, sneeze or squeal from an unexpectedly stubbed toe. Then, ask how you would handle stepping on a rusty nail or deliver a baby without making a sound. Apparently, Blunt filmed her terrifying, extended bathtub scene in one take. When hubby yelled, “Cut,” she instantly asked the crew, “What’s for lunch?”

This movie might feature the least amount of speaking since “The Artist” (2011), yet deploys very different means of visual storytelling. Their desperation is sobering. It tells of family issues while avoiding familiar clichés. These are not Disney kids and although the ending is immensely satisfying, it’s not necessarily a Disney type ending.

“A Quite Place” is 90 minutes and rated PG-13 for terror and some bloody images. This is an instant horror classic. Exploring new territory, it’s intelligent, terrifying and kind of fun, once you get your breath back. If you don’t mind watching in a constant state of panic, it absolutely shreds your nerves, but in a good way.

While so many sci-fi filmmakers compete for the highest sustained decibel ratings and gratuitous violence, we learn that prolonged silence and empathetic characters can yield unbearable tension and terrifying thrills. We care about this family in this plausible situation. This is solid entertainment that leaves you thinking, or quietly contemplating.

Ron’s Rating: A-
Leigh’s Rating: B+

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Ron & Leigh Martel