A Quiet Place

There are some movies that the wife refuses to see. She doesn’t like gore or spooky images or movies like this — so intense that you almost curl up into the fetal position, struggling to remember to breathe through most of the movie. Apparently, she says that’s not fun. I don’t understand why not.

I like horror movies, but not all of them. I’m not one of those people who goes out to see every single one that graces the theater. Most of them aren’t very good, and there are generally better things to watch. Because of this, you’ll almost never see me review horror movies on the same weekend they come out. I like to wait to make sure they’re worth the money and time. And even then, it sometimes requires a fortuitous surplus of leisure time during the proper window. So yay! A Quiet Place received good enough reviews and came out at a right enough time, that I managed to see it.

I like to always clear the air of disclaimers first, so I’ll start by saying I’m not an Emily Blunt fan. I don’t have a reason. I can’t explain it. Please don’t hate me. It’s not personal to you or to her. It’s just some sort of visceral personal reaction. On the other hand, John Krasinski, who I have very little screen time with (never watched The Office), has invaded my soul with his likable personality and very impressive directing chops.

A Quiet Place is a remarkable achievement in Sound Design, one of those categories that gets an Oscar every year while the collective American audience thinks, “What the hell is sound design?” To be honest, I’m not really sure, but if it’s what I imagine Sound Design to be, then this movie nails it. In a lot of very clear ways, sound represents the main character of this movie. Sure, there are flesh bags and monsters, too, but all of it only makes sense in the context of sound, which is simultaneously used and not used to evoke emotion and fear. It also does a pretty amazing job of differentiating the world as (not) heard from a deaf girl and the not-deaf people around her.

The acting is good. Not outstanding, but perfectly adequate for this type of movie. They manage to get a lot of information across with stares and inaudible gasps, but they still end up relying on either sign language or outright speech, the latter only when it’s safe to do so as outlined by the world they inhabit (basically, if something is louder than you, you can talk all you want). This, of course, has some flaws in its logic, namely that you wouldn’t be able to hear each other if something was louder than you. Also, I would imagine that these inexplicable creatures that only eat via echo-location would have a pretty finely attuned sense of hearing, such that they could pick out the component sounds around them. But what do I know? I’m not a xenobiologist.

Though, a xenobiologist might not be the expert you need. Did these things come from space or a lab somewhere on earth? It’s never made clear, and it’s ultimately not at all important to the movie. It’s really about a family surviving, and love, and sacrifice, and all those universal things. The movie clips along feverishly enough that you won’t get bored enough to ask questions like “if you know the creatures can’t find you when there’s louder sounds, why don’t you all live in a giant soundproof dome with Led Zeppelin blaring outside?” To be fair, it’s only a little over a year into this whole fiasco during the bulk of the movie, so maybe they just haven’t thought of that yet.

The movie really does make you think about sound and its importance in your life, though. I can’t tell you how many times the characters were frantically searching for each other, unable to safely yell each others’ names. It makes light and sight much more important, and the world does a fine job of theorizing exactly how such a life would work.

This is a very good movie. It’s not the best horror movie I’ve ever seen by any stretch, but it is very well directed and designed, and it evokes tense emotions throughout. The questions will only come after you’ve walked out of the theater, and in my book, any movie that matters enough for you to ask any sort of questions afterward must have been a pretty roaring good time. If you like horror movies, this’ll be one all other horror movie buffs will have expected you to watch in 2018 — so get to it.

(And no, I don’t like Emily Blunt any more than I did going in, but her performance also didn’t move the needle in the other direction, so there’s hope for her yet!)

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