Part monster horror and part thriller, A Quiet Place leaves nerves frayed and minds numb.
The film takes place in a world where blind monsters — humanoids with spidery limbs and gear-like ears — have taken over and are as lethal as they are hungry, hunting their prey through sounds. Director John Krasinski plays a survivalist father, Lee Abbott, while Emily Blunt is the fierce Evelyn Abbott.
The opening shot is of a drugstore. Nature has taken over the building and the shelves full of battered products lie forgotten. The littlest Abbott, played by Cade Woodward, pines for a toy rocket but Krasinski makes him leave it behind.
The Abbotts are next seen barefoot, traversing on an empty road and then train rails. Being a mostly silent film, A Quiet Place relies on natural sounds — the soft pattering of bare feet, the rustling of leaves and the dripping of water. The effect is similar to ASMR but instead of tranquility, there is an obvious tension in the air.
The tension builds — Woodward has taken the rocket and starts playing with it. The beep-beep of the toy rips through the eerie silence, and despite Krasinski's best efforts, the boy becomes food for a ravenous monster.
Suspense is thick and goosebumps pop all over. It gets more difficult not to cringe and gasp as the Abbotts slowly get swirled into the monster madness.
The birth scene is perhaps the most uncomfortable to watch. Blunt's character, Evelyn, is pregnant and is left on her own as the men in the family go fishing. She attempts to remain quiet but the monster finds her anyway. It runs its nails along the walls as the blood from between Evelyn's legs slithers down toward the bathtub drain.
Just as she lets out a scream, fireworks triggered by her son Beau (who had since discovered what was happening) erupt, and the monster flees.
The transition is almost too perfect. Every scene is formulaic: sound erupts, monster comes, sound erupts, monster goes away. Although frightening, the scenes make the audience annoyed, watching blunder after blunder, rescue after rescue — all flawlessly timed.
Thankfully, the film prides itself on wonderful, emotional performances. The Abbotts mostly converse in sign language. Through facial features and gestures, everyone reveals a beautiful familial aspect in the movie that makes it more than just another horror film.
The monsters are terrifying but lack the depth their human counterparts have. Glimpses of newspaper headlines of the apocalypse are shown during the movie but director Krasinski offers no clear explanation to the monsters' origins.
With its taut suspense, brilliant acting and paralyzing creatures, A Quiet Place emphasizes the beauty of family and redefines the meaning of horror.