Monday 24 June 2019

A Quiet Place 5-star movie review: 'A note-perfect horror film that sticks to its own fantasy logic'

5 stars

Quiet riot: Emily Blunt hushes Millicent Simmonds. Photo: Jonny Cournoyer
Quiet riot: Emily Blunt hushes Millicent Simmonds. Photo: Jonny Cournoyer
Paul Whitington

Paul Whitington

In the opening scenes of A Quiet Place, a mother (Emily Blunt) and her children wander the aisles of a devastated supermarket. Something bad has happened: the shop shelves are almost empty and, outside, the deserted street is lined with long-abandoned cars. Wordlessly, the woman and her brood search for food and when one of the kids drops something, they all freeze. Noise is the enemy here and we'll shortly find out why.

From the tattered covers of discarded newspapers we learn that an alien species arrived a few years ago - fierce, lizard-like creatures that feast on human flesh. They have giant bodies and heads like praying mantises, but cannot see so they hunt by sound. Those humans who have survived have learned to conduct their daily lives in silence, and for the woman and her husband (John Krasinski, who also directs), every day is a carefully choreographed battle to survive.

They and their three children live on a secluded farm which the resourceful husband has rigged for survival: a closed circuit TV system warns him of advancing extraterrestrials and as one of their kids (Millicent Simmonds) is deaf, the family communicates fluently in sign language.

Every chore and activity has been modified to reduce the risk of a potentially deadly noise, but sooner or later someone's bound to make one, and on the way home from the supermarket the youngest child manages to coax a battery-operated toy to life, which has devastating consequences.

Soon after, the mother falls pregnant and the father is busily making arrangements for the new arrival. But he's working against time, because babies cry and if that obstacle can't be overcome, none of them are going to live for very long.

Meanwhile, tensions mount between the deaf girl and her father, who's reluctant to let her help with his survivalist chores. And when she runs away, she inadvertently sets in train a series of events that will put them all in terrible danger.

John Krasinski acts and directs
John Krasinski acts and directs

Best known as a comic actor who first came to prominence in the American version of The Office, John Krasinski has written and directed films before, but nothing to suggest he was capable of something like this. Because A Quiet Place is hard to find fault with: it's a note-perfect horror film that sticks to its own fantasy logic, never makes the mistake of over-explaining anything and doesn't out-stay its welcome either.

An hour and a half is about as much as anyone wants to feel frightened for and Krasinski's film fills its 90 minutes with exquisitely crafted fear.

The idea of blind monsters who hunt by sound is a brilliant one because it gives the film built-in tension, and its own particular mini-universe of terror. These things can appear from nowhere and pounce with incredible speed, so any time someone drops a fork or coughs too loud, the entire family freezes and listens out for any advancing clatter through the surrounding corn fields.

Moments of relief are rare and the father shares a joyous few seconds with his young son when he takes him to a waterfall where the rushing water beats off the rocks so loud you can shout as much as you want. The film's most memorable scene, though, involves a nail, a step and a heavily pregnant woman.

Krasinski's real-life wife Emily Blunt has expanded her range considerably in recent years, and utterly convinces as a mother who can only use expressions and those eloquent eyes to express her fierce protective love for her children. She's excellent, as is her husband's film.

Also out this week: Movie reviews: Michael Inside, Love, Simon, Wonderstruck and 120 BPM

Films coming soon...

Rampage (Dwayne Johnson, Naomie Harris, Malin Akerman, Jeffrey Dean Morgan); Making The Grade (Ken Wardrop); Truth or Dare (Lucy Hale, Tyler Posey, Sophia Taylor); Custody (Lea Drucker, Denis Menochet); Western (Meinhard Neumann).

Blunt hides in the bath in A Quiet Place
Blunt hides in the bath in A Quiet Place

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