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D: John Krasinski / 90m

Cast: Emily Blunt, John Krasinski, Millicent Simmonds, Noah Jupe

In the near future, humans have been decimated by creatures who hunt by sound. One family, the Abbotts – dad Lee (Krasinski), mother Evelyn (Blunt), daughter Regan (Simmonds), and son Marcus (Jupe) – are living in a farmhouse away from the nearest town. They have learned to adapt by being as silent as possible: when they travel they don’t wear anything on their feet, and they stick to paths they’ve created that soften their footfalls. Regan is deaf, and the family all communicate using sign language. Nearly five hundred days have elapsed since the creatures first appeared, and Evelyn is heavily pregnant. One day, Lee decides to take Marcus with him on a trip. Regan wants to go as well, but she’s charged with staying behind and looking after Evelyn. Angry at this, she decides to run away. Meanwhile, Evelyn injures herself, something that causes her to cry out (and attract one of the creatures), and also to go into labour. With the family split up, all of them find themselves in danger, and all of them must rely on their ingenuity to keep from being killed…

A creature feature with a modern, high concept twist, A Quiet Place opens with a prologue that highlights just how much peril the Abbotts are facing on a daily basis. With this established, the movie proceeds to introduce us properly to the characters, and to explore further the world they live in, what with all its rules about being silent, and how best to avoid the creatures that are lying in wait. In adapting an original screenplay by Bryan Woods and Scott Beck, actor-director John Krasinski has made a horror thriller that plays on our fears of the nuclear family coming under threat from a seemingly unstoppable force, and the potential destruction of said family. It’s a movie with a warning message: be careful and keep your family close, because if you don’t, bad things can happen (as the prologue tells us). This allows the movie to explore aspects of personal paranoia and fear that resonate throughout. Bolstered by a determination not to let anyone off lightly, the movie puts its characters into harm’s way at several different turns, and it doesn’t always provide them with a free pass. For once, this is a movie where you can’t be sure just who is going to make it to the end.

Naturally, the focus is on the sound design – though the cinematography by Charlotte Bruus Christensen is equally vivid – and it’s the combination of muted dialogue and rarefied natural sounds, along with periods of prolonged silence that makes it all so effective. Krasinski lessens the effect by including Marco Beltrami’s music score (would that he could have left out a score altogether), but the absence of a familiar soundtrack adds to the tension, and this makes for an uncomfortable atmosphere against which the action takes place. Making his first foray into the genre, Krasinski acquits himself well, and there are good performances from the cast, including Simmonds who is deaf in real life. If there are any caveats, it’s that the movie does feel stretched as it heads into the final half hour, and a couple of narrative decisions push the boundaries of what is otherwise a fairly well constructed scenario. The creatures are appropriately menacing, if a little over-exposed by the end, and the script makes only a casual attempt to explain their provenance, something that’s refreshing and doesn’t cause the movie to put itself on hold while someone delivers a few minutes of exposition (though if they were killed for doing so…).

Rating: 7/10 – a solid, unpretentious horror thriller that is at least trying to do something different, A Quiet Place is an intelligent if ultimately overwrought movie that has a number of effective moments, and makes a few good points about the perils of parenting along the way; there’s tension aplenty, and even though most of it dissipates in favour of the kind of showdown seen dozens (if not hundreds) of times before, this is still an above average survivalist horror that has a lot more to offer than most of its ilk.