Critical Viewing: A Quiet Place (2018)

This week’s studies focus on dialogue, so there was no better film for me to discuss than John Krasinski’s superb horror A Quiet Place. Receiving near-universal acclaim, and even prompting Platinum Dunes to finally ditch plans to continuing re-re-rebooting old horror franchises, it’s a ridiculously successful film, both commercially and technically.

Full disclosure: I adored this film, and can’t stop thinking about it, and I can’t stop telling people to just go and see it! Preferably somewhere where you have a respectful audience. In the screening I attended, there was barely even the crunch of popcorn, which is a rare thing indeed, and added to the atmosphere and tension. A perfect experience.

Set in the near future when creatures stalk the land, reacting violently towards any kind of noise, A Quiet Place is a masterclass in character and world building using little dialogue.

Although the setup could have come across as a gimmick, it works incredibly well, forcing the filmmakers to communicate story in a non-verbal way. There are moments of dialogue, and sign language, but it is generally a silent movie. The first few minutes show the situation the characters are in through their actions, rather than having heavy-handed expositionary dialogue telling us. We see paths of sand laid down for people to walk barefoot along to avoid making sound; we see the family cooking, then silently saying grace over their meal; daily life in this situation is demonstrated without talking down to the audience by describing it all through dialogue.

The setup gives some great moments of tension throughout, including an upturned nail on a staircase, begging to be stood on, and a child reaching for a noisy toy. If there had been more dialogue throughout the film, I don’t believe that A Quiet Place would have been as successful in delivering the horror and emotion so expertly crafted throughout.

And what an ending – that’s how you end a movie.

Wonderful.

The performances were superb, from both the adult and child actors, and you could feel the tension in the screening during some particular sequences, and it’s a rare thing to find a horror film that balances scares and real emotion so well. Scary, moving, tense. Just go and watch it.

(Although as someone who watches The Office over and over again, pretty much on repeat, when there was a shot of the back of John’s character’s head, I heard Pam’s voice in my mind saying ‘I’ve gotten pretty good at reading the back of Jim’s head’…)

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