movie review

John Krasinski’s A Quiet Place Uses Its Gimmick to Terrifying Effect

Emily Blunt in A Quiet Place.

Horror filmmakers understand that, as the strippers in Gypsy put it, they gotta get a gimmick if they wanna get ahead, and the gimmick in A Quiet Place is thunderously effective: Don’t make a sound or you’re dead meat. Apparently — the movie has little in the way of exposition — humanity has been virtually wiped out by creatures with ginormous yucky unfurling ears but no other senses of note. That means, in theory, Marcel Marceau could tiptoe by them and they wouldn’t smell his greasepaint, but if his stomach were to growl he’d be mime tartare.

In A Quiet Place, what’s left of the world is John Krasinski (who also co-wrote and directed); his real-life wife, Emily Blunt, as his fictional wife; and three kids … oops, make that two, played by Millicent Simmonds and Noah Jupe. Hell of a grim start. Family members walk barefoot to do errands in the deserted town (they noticeably pass up the chips in the market), communicate in sign language, and are careful when they play Monopoly that they don’t drop any pieces on the floor.

The movie suffers from having no obvious endgame, and it’s not as fun as the recent, less tony shut-the-hell-up horror movie Don’t Breathe. But it’s aggressively scary. The characters have to be so vewwy quiet that when the floor creaks or someone bumps into a table, the soundtrack goes BANG!!!! and the whole audience jumps. A nail sticking out of the floor makes your stomach plummet: You can instantly imagine the foot coming down on it and the writhing attempt not to scream. Increasing the dread is that Blunt is pregnant — happily so, actually — despite the fact that infants aren’t exactly easy to teach sign language to.

Krasinski gets terrific performances from everyone: It’s a convincing family. Which is nice, in a way, despite the ghastliness of the situation. Absent social media, the relationships — even when fraught — have an archetypal purity. It might be a useful Sabbath bonding exercise to pretend there are monsters lying in wait.

*This article appears in the April 2, 2018, issue of New York Magazine. Subscribe Now!

A Quiet Place Uses Its Gimmick to Terrifying Effect