‘Quiet Place’ builds tension in its run time
There should be complimentary massages with each ticket purchase of "A Quiet Place" to make up for the amount of tension it manages to build throughout its run time.
Viewers are immediately, randomly plopped into "Day 89" of an apparent alien takeover. We only get passing glances of newspaper clippings that give us clues as to these creatures' methods or motives. The spindly hunters are driven by sound, and can detect even the slightest stir, which incites their attack.
We are situated with a young family living in upstate New York, who have applied a methodical approach to survival in their new reality. The creatures are apparently blind, so the family can eke by undetected so long as they make as little noise as possible.
This includes walking barefoot, placing sand along their most commonly traveled paths, using sign language to communicate, searching for any other survivors and managing to survive with as little incident as possible.
They almost succeed.
The story then shifts to a year later when the family – father Lee (played by John Krasinski), mother Evelyn (played by Emily Blunt), daughter Regan (played by Millicent Simmonds) and son Marcus (played by Noah Jupe) – reside in a remote farmhouse that has been redesigned to subsist under the harsh new world.
There are additional matters that complicate their lifestyle: the older child, Regan, is deaf, therefore unaware of encroaching beasties they're when not in sight; Evelyn is set to deliver a child any day (which I am certain involves more than a little sound); and their very existence in an open field is not exactly the safest location for a family, as there is little ambient noise to mask the slightest whisper.
Krasinski, best known for his long-running stint in the American version of "The Office," did not instill confidence in his directorial abilities with 2016's "The Hollars," a cliche-packed family dramedy that was painted by numbers, and seemed to use only one number. But in his sophomore effort, he knocks it out of the park.
He generates genuine, sustained dread from the opening scene in a shelled-out pharmacy, as the family scrambles for medication for their ill son. The sound design is used to perfection, picking up every crackle, shift and swish. In fact, during the screening I attended, patrons reserved popcorn munching and candy wrapper crinkling for the film's short musical interludes.
It helps matters that he was able to assemble such a capable cast, particularly Simmonds as the daughter. Deaf in real life, the actress is the film's emotional anchor, as she often feels like a family burden and is able to generate genuine compassion for her, and their plight, throughout.
All this keeps the film from becoming just a gimmick of becoming "that silent horror flick." It's certainly not without its logical flaws (there is apparently a majestic waterfall nearby offering noise aplenty, which would seem to be the perfect location in which to live, but that's nitpicking), and yet, like last year's "Get Out," it certainly sets the bar high at the beginning of the year for original, legitimate scares.
"A Quiet Place" may spend the majority of its run time in silence, but it is pretty safe to say that you and your fellow viewing audience members will most certainly not.