Regular, sharp eyed readers will see that there’s a subtle difference in the format of this review.
For as long as I’ve been reviewing films online, I’ve adopted the habit of starting off with an introductory quote. A line of dialogue from the film at hand. One that I think is memorable, or funny, or perfectly sets the tone for the review, and the film itself.
It’s not that I’m abandoning this practice. I am, after all a creature of habit. But it’s just not appropriate in this case. You see, A Quiet Place is a film that literally has virtually no dialogue. No, it’s not a silent film like The Artist, where the silent era is being recreated. This is something new, wholly original and stunning in its execution.
One thing I’ve noticed about the horror genre over the years is that it ebbs and flows. But once in a while, something startlingly original comes along that re-sets the whole industry. Night of the Living Dead, The Blair Witch Project – they set the industry on a new course by doing something different, and with A Quiet Place, I see the same kind of creative breakthrough happening again. Not necessarily in the storyline but in the way the story is told.
We’re actually told next to nothing about the plot, the reason for the predicament our protagonists are in, or anything about them – it’s all shown, and the audience actually has to think and put things together. Imagine that, a film where every little bit of information is NOT spoon fed to the audience.
The story is as simple as, well, Night of the Living Dead. At its core, Night of the Living Dead is a siege movie with the corpses of the recently deceased wandering around outside, and they’re hungry. A band of people are hiding out in a farmhouse, trying to survive. We’re told that an astronomical phenomenon somehow caused the zombie apocalypse and basically, that’s all you get.
As the film opens, it’s the background detail that fills in all the blanks. We’re in a rural setting, a small town. Something has happened. Civilisation has seemingly collapsed. Vehicles and buildings have been abandoned. There’s only a family in sight, and they seem to be wary, cautious and have taken a plunge in the pool of paranoia about making absolutely no sound whatsoever. They are walking barefoot on makeshift path of sand. They communicate in sign language which they would’ve known as their daughter appears to be deaf.
From what we gather from the background details, the planet has been over run by creatures who are pretty hard to describe. They’re part insect, reminiscent of the preying mantis, their bodies appear to have an exoskeletal armour, their heads open up like starfish, they roar like something out of Jurassic Park and they’re carnivorous. They home in on their prey with sound. Needless to say, their prey is us.
We don’t really know where these things come from, whether they’re alien invaders, or from some kind of dimensional breach (as in The Mist) who knows? But it doesn’t really matter anyway. We quickly discover what the rules are – basically survival. And we quickly discover the consequences of making a noise. Any noise.
The whole film is performed with basically no dialogue, and this adds to the tension, which is intense throughout the lean ninety-minute running time. Seeing it with a cinema audience, the tension was actually palpable in the screening. But on a side note – the total silence of the soundtrack, apart from the music score every now and again created its own eerie atmosphere, broken only by the sounds of loud popcorn munching – which I guess can’t be helped.
Credit should be given to the cast of this film, who make the whole thing credible and make their characters sympathetic and emotional by gesture and expression alone, even the younger actors. They all sell the concept completely as they try to survive a nightmarish night on their farm, where just about everything that can go wrong does indeed go wrong. I won’t go into the plot any deeper than that.
It’s visual horror, and it refrains from going to the well of a sudden blast of sound too often. It doesn’t go for the cheap, easy scare – but never shirks from setting up a nasty, painful wince inducing situation, which is then followed up.
Overall, completely satisfying and unlike any film we’ve seen before. I’ll go on record though and say that the worst thing that could happen, in my opinion, is for this concept to become a franchise. We don’t need a sequel, though I fully expect one.
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