SXSW FILM REVIEW: ‘A Quiet Place’ Pushes Horror to Bold Limits

Emily Blunt in A QUIET PLACE, from Paramount Pictures.


As anyone horror fan can attest, finding the right balance between cheese and terror is tough. The genre as a whole tends to garner a lack of respect from the rest of the film world. Because of this, the world is now privy to the movement we’re seeing with horror as it begins to shy away from the typical tropes and create hybrids of our favorite genres.

While folks like Jordan Peele and all of A24 are getting a handle on the idea of boutique horror and what it can do for the right audience, the blockbuster side of things still reigns supreme. So where then does that overlap lie? Apparently with John Krasinski. Blending the two, the star has found the common ground, and has done so seamlessly as he presented the world premiere of A Quiet Place this weekend at SXSW.

In a dystopian near future, blind creatures have taken over the world, attacking any loud sound that dare exist. Fast, powerful, cunning, and covered in an impenetrable armor, these creatures quickly overpower humanity, taking over as the top of the food chain. With no other choice, humans are forced to soundproof their lives, and work to keep the world as quiet as possible. Without words, we immediately connect with the unnamed characters through their visceral emotions and fear.

Part of what makes the set up so interesting is the fact that the actors deliver their lines solely through sign language and facial/body expressions. Even without the subtitles, we could honestly read what they’re trying to tell one another as they do their best to survive another day. Unique in delivery, we’re immediately set up for the jump scare. Not because we think something will pop out of the bushes, but because we are quickly trained to be as frightened of sound as the characters.

Veering closer to the blockbuster side of things are the creatures. Relying on CGI, the filmmakers successfully designed the beasts to convey walking nightmares. Hulking and spider-like, they wait on the fringes of society, ready to destroy. Their movements are calculated, similar to those the raptors in Jurassic Park. Rather than keep us in the dark, Krasinski them early on in a devastating moment that sets the tone for the rest of the movie.

Along with the monsters, the big names attached to the movie are part of what will keep it’s unique blockbuster/b-movie balance. Krasinski and his wife Emily Blunt maintain their real life chemistry on screen, and their genuine like for one another allows for smaller moments to hold a hefty weight. The kids (Noah Jupe, Millicent Simmonds, and Cade Woodward) hold their own onscreen, dedicated to the art of silence and the balance of using the children in peril troupe while avoiding coming off as an annoying afterthought.

Packing psychological horror, visceral gore, and jump scares for the faint hearted, A Quiet Place is successful. Yes, there are problems (the family lives on a farm with a seemingly abundant and rather large cornfield that didn’t plant itself), but that’s precisely why the genre relies on suspended disbelief. Hopefully this is the start of the new era in horror, one that audiences of all types can find a respect for.

A Quiet Place opens theatrically on April 6.

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