I don’t really like horror movies because they are usually one of two things: terrifying or a waste of time. Neither is enjoyable to me. There is, however, a sweet spot in the genre that focuses on telling a better story than ‘don’t die.’ Movies in this sweet spot tend to value tension and/or mystery over cheap thrills or gore, or has a poignant theme. A Quiet Place is such a movie.
The story is simple, really: a family must survive a monster infestation/alien invasion (who knows, really) by remaining as silent as possible. The creatures have an excellent sense of hearing, you see, but are as blind as a bat. The movie’s narration is mostly told in sign language, or in the camera work. It’s a show, don’t tell kind of movie, conveying a lot of information with little dialogue. Through it all, the family’s children must trust that their parents, played outstandingly by John Krasinski (who directed, of all people) and Emily Blunt, are doing everything they can to keep them alive. Personally, I thought it was a more remarkable and engaging movie about kids appreciating their parents than Ladybird.
This is a movie that doesn’t answer a lot of questions. To be fair, it doesn’t ask a lot of questions either. It’s a contained story of one family within a larger, unknown apocalypse. It’s M. Night Shyamalan’s Signs with less creep, more tension, and fewer plot holes. I don’t think it’s anything groundbreaking, but it’s superbly executed.
Unlike Matthew, I love scary movies. I love indulging in the creative ways a filmmaker can make you feel squeamish, paranoid, creeped out, or just overall tense. If the filmmaker can, at the same time, make you feel genuine attachment to the main characters, then everything just gets ratcheted even higher. It’s hard not to feel attached to John Krasinski and Emily Blunt, they’re such likeable people already! Then show them being thoughtful, loving, “I’d do anything for my kids” parents, and the tension skyrockets. The kids are also very likeable. Children in horror movies tend to be annoying, creepy, or weirdly intuitive – rarely, just normal. These kids are pretty normal, in my opinion. You sympathize with their fears and their angst.
So, the characters are great, what about the plot? Spoiler alert, it’s really good. It’s simple and straightforward, which narrows your focus. Like Matthew said, it doesn’t require you to ask lots of questions about the outside world. Your focus is on this one family. However, it’s simplicity could easily make it a pretty average story. So there are just enough unique, surprising twists to keep you guessing and dreading. There’s a nice blend of expected and unexpected terror, which I found refreshing. Is it scarier if you know how something bad is going to happen, or is it worse to be surprised with a horrific event? This movie has some of both, and it’s very effective. Overall, this is the tensest I’ve been in the theater in a while, and I can’t wait to experience it again.
P.S. First Annihilation, now this one. I’m going to have to start a list of movies one shouldn’t watch while pregnant.