There is something truly remarkable about seeing A Quiet Place in a packed house, where attendees have their phones put away, and nobody is whispering to each other, and barely anyone is even munching on popcorn. It reminds you how effective the moviegoing experience can be when the audience is respectful, silent and really into the movie they’re watching.
In a post-apocalyptic world, eerily set only a few years from now, parents played by real-life husband and wife John Krasinski and Emily Blunt, and their children are trying to survive in a world where they cannot make a single sound. If they do, they will be hunted by monsters that feed off of noise. One of the children is deaf, and the entire family communicates by sign language and does their best to survive in a world where making noise could have deadly consequences.
Krasinski, also director and co-writer, has worked behind the camera before, but in nothing that could ever suggest he had a movie like this in him. Like Jordan Peele with Get Out, this could be a person from the world of comedy who can do some truly interesting things in horror. The use of silence in this film is so efficient, to the point where when you do hear something it’s striking and utterly terrifying.
Pretty much every moment is filled with dread and tension. It uses the jump scare in a way that many horror films do not. It doesn’t feel cheap, because you are consistently aware of the very real stakes for the people onscreen. They’ve built a life in this completely silent world — they know which parts of the floorboards and stairs to step on so they won’t creak and they will walk barefoot in a path of sand wherever they go. They have a lived-in quality to them, that when the big scares happen, they work. You feel what the filmmakers want you to feel. Nothing seems forced, but everything feels rigidly and meticulously planned.
In contrast, Darren Aronofsky’s mother did not use a musical score at all. It also had an incredibly tense atmosphere because of this. A Quiet Place uses a very good score by Marco Beltrami. And it works fine because virtually every film has a score. However, it would have been truly impressive if they tried to do this film completely without musical backing. That’s not to say the score detracts from any intensity onscreen, as this film is tense and stressful enough with it.
All in all, I would not say A Quiet Place reinvents the horror genre. But it does so much with white-knuckled tension and not much else. There’s almost no dialogue, and almost no gore, and it’s exceptionally acted by everyone. If you’re lucky enough to see this film with an audience that respects the unwritten rules of a film like this, it truly does heighten the experience. If you go see it in the theater, which you absolutely should, be respectful. And stay quiet.