SBox Recommends: A Quiet Place (Movie Review)

Note: SBR never spoils. You are safe. Enjoy!

Welcome back to SBox Recommends, where our motto is “every film has its fans”. Here I see a movie, review it, and then find out who will like it most and who will like it least.

Early last year was the first time I decided to watch The Office (US) series all the way through. Before then, I saw a couple of scattered episodes here and there (mostly Christmas episodes and the Firedrill episode every Office fan uses to get their loved ones into the show), but never the whole series. Long story short, I loved it and it’s one of the best bingeing marathons I think I ever had. And, of course, one of the standout characters of the show was Jim Halpert, played by John Krasinski, because he was the guy everyone wanted to be. Laid-back, cool, funny, and able to go home with Pam everyday (but that’s besides the point).

Since The Office, Krasinski has been relatively unseen by most on either the big or small screen. I personally enjoyed seeing him again in 13 Hours as well as his brief yet memorable cameo in last year’s Detroit. However, now our old friend Jim has graced our screens once more not only as the main star but as a director. This wouldn’t be Krasinski’s first time in the director’s chair, having previously helmed The Hollars and Brief Interviews with Hideous Men. However, this appears to be a much more personal project of his, and one that has gotten a good ton of traction since trailers came out late last year. Question is, is A Quiet Place the magnum opus we’re all hoping it’ll be, or should Jim not quit his day-job at Dunder-Mifflin?

Story

A Quiet Place is a suspense/horror film directed by, written by, and starring John Krasinski. The film also stars Emily Blunt and is produced in part by Michael Bay.

A devastating event in the not so distant past has left the world plagued by several monsters who have a hyper-sensitivity to sound. In this new world, silence is survival because if the monsters hear you they will come for you and there is no escape. Around 480 days into the silent period, Lee and Evelyn Abbott try to protect their family in these new quiet times. How long can they last and what will they have to do to keep their children and each other safe?

Writing

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First off, that concept is awesome as hell, and Krasinski, Bryan Woods, and Scott Beck should be very proud of themselves for coming up with it. It’s such a creative and interesting idea for a film, but it’s also a complicated one when you really think about it. I can only imagine the challenge required to make a film like A Quiet Place work as well as it did, but I can confirm that it absolutely nails it in just about every regard.

The first thing I think most people will notice is the movie’s surprising simplicity. For a concept so difficult to execute, the film’s plot-progression is actually rather straightforward. Once you’re introduced to the concept and rules of this new world the movie does a fantastic job not overstating itself or reinforcing details you already figured out a few minutes ago. No exposition. No elongated dialogue scenes. No repeat information. It’s just you and the journey ahead which the film trusts you in following on your own. They give you just enough details to get you through the rest of the movie, and if anything else is needed for you to know, it tells you gradually.

The film also has a subtle way of portraying new information to the audience, again not overstating anything beyond what is necessary for you to understand. That is due in part to the movie’s concept allowing itself to employ something I wish I saw in more films. As my grandfather once said to me, “Don’t tell me. Show me.” That’s a statement important both in life and in film, because words have a bad habit of wanting to linger on much longer than needed. By just visually and casually showing us how the world works, why things are the way they are, and what the situation at hand is, you convey your plotpoints in a much more meaningful way.

This brings me to some of those challenges I mentioned the film no doubt had in order to get off the ground. See, a film with no noise means you’ll have to be shown a big part of the story instead of being told it. Thankfully, this is where the movie’s simplicity really complements the story. Had this film tried to be evant-garde and abstract this movie would’ve been highly confusing to the average audience member, and they knew this. That’s why the film is about just one thing: survival. Understanding that takes no time at all, which means all that’s left to know is what roadblocks stand in the way of survival from childish oblivion to pain and even depression. It doesn’t try to be fancy with what makes the story move forward, and that’s to the movie’s benefit.

That’s not to say the movie is shallow by any means. You actually have between one in two powerful themes within in. The movie is basically about the lengths one will go in order to protect and, to a lesser extent, the dangers of miscommunication. One of these themes are more obvious than the other, but both equally effective.

The movie goes at a very relaxed pace. It definitely takes its time, especially toward the beginning, in order to get you familiar with the setting, but it also doesn’t waste your time. Every scene from beginning to end feels just as important as the last with almost no filler moments throughout. If a scene isn’t moving the story forward, it’s feeding your curiosity and building the world in the process. For instance, just how much noise is expended from simple household functions? How do you entertain yourself without making much noise? How does the whole family know ASL? All of these and more are answered throughout the film. And when it’s all said and done, the movie doesn’t overstay it’s welcome, wrapping itself up in a very satisfying way in just 90 minutes.

One final aspect of the movie’s writing that really elevates the movie is how immersive it is. It’s perhaps the best compliment I can give this movie. I don’t know whether it’s just the mere concept, the setting, or the characters that cause it, but something about this film just pulls you in and puts you right into the chaos with the Abbott family. Within the first 5 minutes of the movie I guarantee you’ll be too afraid to even breathe too heavily while watching it, let alone talking. I’ll go a bit more into the fact in just a second, but for now just know that this is the most immersive horror movie I’ve seen in a very long time.

I have just two minor nitpicks in regards to the movie’s writing. One is a bit of a plothole that involves sound-proofing. Don’t worry! This movie doesn’t forget sound-proofing is a thing, but there’s just an unresolved question I personally had at one point in the film. You’ll know what I mean when you see it, though it’s nothing major. My second nitpick involves dialogue. Now, this movie is about 97% in ASL (American Sign Language), but an approximate 3% does involve some verbal English dialogue. In the English scenes, I personally found the dialogue, for lack of a better word, wooden. Not Phantom Menace wooden, but still a little off compared to the ASL portions of the film. However, I reiterate that I’m talking about a mere 3% of the film which barely even qualifies it as a nitpick let alone a full-on problem. So, I wouldn’t worry about it.

Scare Factor

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As you may know, everytime I review a horror movie I dedicate a bit of time to its “scare factor”. Basically, just how scary is this movie on a scale of 1 to 10 and why? Well, I would say for my personal taste I would consider this movie a serviceable 6 out of 10. Though, to be honest that’s a pretty generous estimate since I didn’t really find this film all that scary.

Here’s the thing about the scares in this movie. In a movie about not making noise, what are most of the scares going to be based on? That’s right! Smell. Just kidding: sound. That means that this movie basically comes down to occasional jump scares. To be fair, this isn’t the only kind of scare this movie has to it. Most of the horror comes down to the intensity felt in each passing situation. In other words, it’s much more about suspense than anything else. I believe the average viewer won’t be all that horrified with the movie, but if you’re someone who gets a bit too caught up in the moment or are easily susceptible to jump scares you may want to consider this an 8.

Effects

I’ll keep my talk of effects brief in nature since I consider it a spoiler to talk to much about the monsters of the film. Without giving away too any details, the don’t expect to be blown away by the monster designs. They’re nothing too special or that you haven;t seen before. What I will say is that the creatures are integrated very well into each scene, looking pretty realistic next to our main heroes and within the backgrounds of each shot. They do have quite a presence whenever they’re on screen, too, as if the intimidation reverberates off of them.

Acting

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Another mark of this film’s simplicity is that it was all done with a main cast of just 5 people. There are a couple others in the cast, but for the purposes of this review I’ll just be focusing on the Abbott family.

Let’s start by talking about the two parent characters and then move onto the children. Here, Emily Blunt plays the mother/wife character named Evelyn, and John Krasinski plays the father/husband character named Jim Dwight Lee. (Sorry, I couldn’t resist). As these two are in fact married in real life, one’s expectation is that they would have great and natural chemistry right off the bat, and you’ll be right to expect that. These two work very well off of each other, and one of my favorite scenes of the movie are those involving their relationship. They’re great both in relation to each other and independent of each other. With Krasinski, I was given a startling reminder that he’s just as good a dramatic actor as he is a comedic one. His demeanor is that of someone who has the whole world on his shoulders and you see the sincerity in his face. As for Blunt, she may actually be my favorite performance of the movie. She certainly was involved in my favorite scene of the movie which involves her having to go through pain as quietly as possible. Really excellent all around.

Then there are the three kids: a daughter named Regan (played by Millicent Simmonds) and two sons named Marcus (played by Noah Jupe) and Beau (played by Cade Woodward). These kids are up there with the cast of It as some of the best child actors in the game today. They’re all so good in their distinct roles in this family unit and in portraying the stressful nature of the situation. Woodward’s character makes a huge impact in the beginning of the movie and was surprisingly good for someone so young. Seriously, when’s the last time you saw a great toddler actor? Jupe’s role as the older son does a marvelous job, especially in scenes where he’s working off of Krasinki. In a way he becomes the unofficial emotional center of the film towards the middle of the movie, and his method of showing off a reasonable reaction of fear is very much effective. Then there’s Simmonds’ character, who (fun fact) is deaf both in this movie and in real-life. She is absolutely remarkable in this movie and her character quickly becomes the highlight of the film. Her situation in the movie is actually a bit different from her siblings, and the way she handles emotions like guilt, concern, compassion, anger, and isolation is way beyond what one could ever hope for.

I hope I’m not coming off as a broken record when I keep saying “this actor is great”, but it’s the truth. I’d say it’s the one part of this film that is objectively perfect.

Production Value

A Quiet Place

This is a very competently directed movie, down to the excellent cinematography presented. I love the way this movie is shot in an almost casual way, particularly during the calmer sections of the film. Scenes like that where the movie is usually world-building are presented almost as if they were improvised in-world. Like there were clips of just casual events like chores and general living and they just threw some of them in for educational purposes. I know that may sound like filler, but as I said earlier the film isn’t one to waste your time with scenes that aren’t at least interesting to see. However, when shit starts to go down that style quickly shifts from casual to intense. I’m talking you feel up-close and personal in a world you can’t even scream at lest you get offed. Still, very rarely is the movie filmed in a way that’s too fast-paced. It’s just slow enough and steady enough for you to get the full effect of the horror that’s on screen. It’s an excellent way to film a horror movie.

The little music there is in the film is pleasant enough to the ears. Nothing you’ll remember much of, but pleasant nontheless. Production design is also great as its filmed in a pretty small area of space. Most of the events of the film take place in or around this one house with the exception of maybe two instances where it spreads a bit further. A lot of natural lighting is utilized, too, assumably because electricity isn’t exactly a thing in this world. Thankfully, scenes both inside and outside are excellently lit.

Overall

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A Quiet Place is probably going to end up the horror flick of the year in the same way Get Out was last year. Both have very similar qualities now that I think about it, down to the directors being comedic actors and the fact that both films have unique concepts that really ended up working.

So much about this film came together to create something that stands out among the crowd of horror films. From the phenomenal acting to the simple yet intense story, there is just too much this film does right and nary anything it did wrong. Sure, I have my nitpicks with the movie here and there, such as a couple narrative hiccups and the monster design falling a bit more on the generic side. However, absolutely none of those things should deter you from seeing what may actually become the most memorable movie of the year; as well as the most fun you’ll have in a theater for a long time).

Score: 9.8/10

Recommendations

Horror films usually have quite a few exceptions to who you can actually recommend them to. Although, with a A Quiet Place falling more on the intense side more than anything, I believe the amount of people who will enjoy this film is still very high.

  • First off, if you or someone you know is a noisy-ass person, a child under the age of 10, or a troll who will see the quiet nature of this movie as an opportunity to mess with people, keep their non-silent selves away from the theater of this movie. It’s not just a matter of other people’s enjoyment of the movie but also their safety. I will personally be right there with the sole purpose of moderating the screenings and will silence any disturbance in the movie using nothing but my hands. (Jokes aside, just don’t be a dick during the movie).
  • If you are easily scared, particularly by jump scares and monsters, you may want to think long and hard about whether you can handle this experience. However, my bet is that most people will be able to.
  • Horror film fans should definitely check this movie out. If you’re in it mainly for the scares, you may come out disappointed. If you’re in it for things like atmosphere or intrigue then you’re in for a treat.
  • If you’re a member of the deaf community, I highly recommend the film to you. It’s one of the few mainstream films done almost entirely in ASL. However, be warned that one of the main sources of horror of the film involve sound. Also, there are one or two moments which aren’t in ASL, and those parts aren’t subtitled. If you plan on seeing this movie and want to follow along, may I recommend finding a transcript of the movie’s script to bring with you? (Unfortunately, I couldn’t find one around, but the second I find one, I’ll update this post with the link).
  • Other than that, most every other viewer (causal moviegoer or hardcore movie fan) should have an awesome time with this movie.

That’s all for my thoughts on A Quiet Place. What did you guys think of the movie? Let me know in the comments below so we can discuss it together!… Oh, and before I go, allow me to leave this picture here for your amusement:

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I’m SBox180. Thanks for reading!

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