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2 reviews, 7 user ratings

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Quiet Place, A
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by Peter Sobczynski

"Be Vewy Vewy Quiet--Seriously. . ."
4 stars

Does it strike anyone as especially odd that nearly all of the films released this year by Paramount Pictures have dealt with encounters with alien life form with potentially catastrophic results for mankind as a whole? First off was “The Cloverfield Paradox,” the deeply disappointing sold-to-Netflix continuation of the “Cloverfield” franchise in which a space station crew’s mucking about with the time-space continuum ends up being the cause of the original film’s creature invasion. Next up was ‘Annihilation,” Alex Garland’s trip and visionary tale of a group of scientists off to investigate a mysterious force field of alien origin and encounter the kind of things destined to fuel think pieces and academic treatises for years to come. Now comes “A Quiet Place” and yet another narrative based around the threat of humanity going the way of the laserdisc thanks to visitors from another world and on a spectrum in which “The Cloverfield Paradox” and “Annihilation” sit at opposite ends, it lands pretty much smack in the middle—while never close to being as achingly stupid as the former, it is also never quite as smart and clever as the latter was or as it clearly thinks it is.

Although the film never gets into the specifics of what happened outside of a few telling newspaper headlines, the conceit of “A Quiet Place” is that there has been an invasion—apparently world wide—by aliens that seem to have been bred specifically for the purpose of one day starring in a horror movie. The trick is that while the creatures are blind as can be, they make up for it with extraordinary hearing and even the slightest noise will have them rushing to tear a hapless victim apart like fresh bread. However, if one can somehow manage to get by without making any discernible sound, the monsters simply ignore them. As the story opens, it is Day 89 since the invasion and we see a family living in upstate New York venturing into town on tiptoes in order to get supplies from the now-empty stores, moving as silently as can be and communicating only in sign language. It all works well enough until the moment where it doesn’t and things take a terrifyingly quick turn to the ghastly.

The story picks up about a year later with the same family, the Abbotts—father Lee (John Krasinski), mother Evelyn (Emily Blunt), daughter Regan (Millicent Simmonds) and son Marcus (Noah Jupe)—continue to eke out a living in a remote farmhouse from which they take every possible precaution to avoid making even the smaller noises, even to the point of replacing the tokens in the Monopoly game with things that won’t make a sound when you move them on the board. There are, of course, a couple of complications to their continued survival. For one thing, Regan is deaf—not an affliction one wants to have under such circumstances—and while Lee has been attempting to build her a hearing aid for her safety, they have only so far resulted in failure. For another, Evelyn is pregnant and due to give birth in about three weeks to a baby that is presumably going to be screaming and crying from the moment that it arrives. Alas, over the course of the next day or so, all of their careful plans and stabs at self-preservation end up collapsing through a combination of rotten luck, a grisly accident and, perhaps inevitably, the baby’s extremely imminent arrival and leave them struggling to stay alive and together as the creatures lay siege on them.

“A Quiet Place” is essentially a M. Night Shyamalan joint without the actual participation of Shyamalan himself—despite the admitted improvement of “Split” over the majority of his output, that should definitely be considered a plus. Instead, the film was directed and co-written by Krasinski (whose previous efforts included the David Foster Wallace adaptation “Brief Interviews with Hideous Men” (2009) and the horrifying-for-all-the-wrong-reasons “The Hollars” (2016)) and as an exercise in pure cinematic style, his work here is undeniably impressive. He establishes the premise in a quick and effective manner and handles the big set pieces with a lot of skill. More impressively, he generates a genuine sense of dread throughout with an effective use of sound that fills viewers with such tension that even the smallest noise has the ability to freak them out. (If you go to see this film, be sure to do so in a theater with a reliable sound system). He also does a good job of working with the actors, who manage to create a convincing family unit almost entirely through how they silently look at and regard each other. All of them are good but the real standout is Simmonds, who proves that her debut in last year’s “Wonderstruck” was not just a fluke. Based on her work in both films, but especially here, she is a born actress and while the fact that she is indeed deaf in real life might prove to be a hinderance to her career, I really hope that filmmakers see her work her and try to figure out ways to make use of her undeniable talents.

All of this is good stuff but the problem with the film is that it suffers from a lack of what screenwriters have dubbed “fridge logic,” which derived its name from the way that Alfred Hitchcock explained the existence of a seemingly inexplicable plot point in “Vertigo.” In essence, “fridge logic” is something that occurs when you watch a film and only after you go home afterwards and begin raiding the refrigerator do you begin to realize that certain aspects of the film that seemed perfectly plausible at the time no longer make sense once you have time to think about them. (“North by Northwest,” for example, is a film made entirely on the basis of fridge logic.) When dealing with a film like “A Quiet Place,” one is inclined to cut it a little slack in terms of internal logic but there are simply too many things about it that do not make sense and wind up distracting from the story as a whole. For example, we are led to believe that the monsters have such acute hearing that our heroes are terrified of making the slightest sound from within their giant farmhouse yet when the scene shifts to a roaring river that is much noisier, none of them are in evidence. An even bigger question—one that threatens to derail the entire story—revolves around Evelyn’s pregnancy. Even those willing to go along with the rest of the story are going to be scratching their heads and wonder why they are bringing a child into the world that will be making exactly the kind of noise they don’t need. Granted, the film does supply suggestions as to how they mean to deal with that problem, along with how Evelyn plans to give birth without making any detectable noise, but they only serve to further underline how implausible the whole thing is to begin with. And while I do not want to give away anything revolving around the ending, I will say that a key plot development so closely mirrors one from another cult favorite that it runs the risk of inspiring a lot of bad laughs at the wrong time.

“A Quiet Place” is not a great movie but it is a good one that takes what could have just been a simple-minded gimmick movie and turns it into something better. Krasinski makes a definite leap in terms of his directing career and it is also nice to see a pared-to-the-bone genre film that is not interested in creating elaborate backstories or setting up an endless string of sequels. And while some have suggested that it is a silent movie, “A Quiet Place” does have plenty of sounds on display. The roaring of a river. The breaking of a branch. The slight creak of a floorboard as it is stepped on. And screams. Lots of screams—some coming from the screen and perhaps even a few supplied by you.

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originally posted: 04/06/18 12:05:23
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OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2018 SXSW Film Festival For more in the 2018 SXSW Film Festival series, click here.

User Comments

10/07/19 Louise (the real one) Tense and involving - a clever concept, although not all is explained clearly. 4 stars
7/15/18 Langano Good but overhyped. 3 stars
7/14/18 Koitus I liked it, but "the weakness" WOUD HAVE been determined by Army Scientists.. 4 stars
7/09/18 Loop Held back by some logical fallacies, but still a solid little creature feature 3 stars
5/14/18 Dr. Lao Riveting! 4 stars
4/11/18 Bob Dog Cracking good suspense thriller! 5 stars
4/06/18 morris campbell a good not great creature feature 4 stars
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  06-Apr-2018 (PG-13)
  DVD: 10-Jul-2018


  DVD: 10-Jul-2018

Directed by
  John Krasinski

Written by
  Scott Beck
  Bryan Woods

  Emily Blunt
  John Krasinski
  Noah Jupe
  Millicent Simmonds
  Cade Woodward

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