About ten minutes into A Quiet Place, a fellow filmgoer leaned over and whispered, “I guess there’s not going to be much talking in this movie.” It was an astute observation, as we had not heard a single word uttered since it began, only the sounds of crisp leaves underfoot, a whirring rocket ship toy, and oh yes – that eyeless, blood-thirsty monstrosity devouring a small child.
The film, both directed by and starring John Krasinski alongside his wife, Emily Blunt, concerns a supernatural species that attacks sound and has subsequently eradicated a large portion of the human population, leaving behind a ghostly, uninhabited world. One of the few surviving families is the Abbotts, a couple with three children and a distinct advantage in that their daughter happens to be deaf, thus they are all able to communicate with sign language and narrowly escape the creatures’ aural reach.
For much of the film, the horror is subtle, consisting of foreshadowing suspense and slight insinuations that plant an impending doom in viewers as they imagine what misfortunes may arise out of a toy with sound effects or a rusty nail protruding from a wooden staircase. In one time-lapsed scene, we see the heavily pregnant Evelyn Abbott doing laundry, and we know instantaneously that a crying newborn is not the wisest decision in an apocalyptic world where hungry Lovecraftian creatures hunt by sound. “Why would they think that’s a good idea?” I remember angrily remarking.
The film is full of these simple yet foreboding moments, taking its time in building the atmosphere before revealing the monstrous creatures in their entirety.
The lack of dialogue ultimately contributes to the creepy ambience of the film and seems to be a growing trend in modern horror. For being a largely speechless film, A Quiet Place conveys an enormous amount of emotion, conflict, love and sacrifice in the way characters silently interact with one another. Burgeoning actress Millicent Simmonds shines in her role as Regan Abbott, who struggles with the guilt and responsibility of her brother’s death, and her strained relationship with her father as a result. The use of American Sign Language also offers a glimpse into the realities deaf individuals, like Simmonds, face in everyday life.
Although I was somewhat disappointed in the lack of backstory, I enjoyed A Quiet Place as a fan of such weird fiction as H.P. Lovecraft, Ambrose Bierce and John Carpenter. And from a social standpoint, I believe it is positioning those with disabilities in the horror genre by redefining their roles from victims to heroes.
If you’re looking for a horror film with nonstop action and jump-scenes, this one is likely to disappoint. But for those who appreciate more gradual suspense, A Quiet Place transforms conventional horror tropes with its use of silence and uncertainty.