Horror films usually fall into two categories: those that are filled with monsters that threaten us from the outside, and those that are full of psychological resonance and an important interior logic. In the second category belong films by Alfred Hitchcock, Stephen King and Stanley Kubrick - master manipulators of the form. John Krasinski’s new box office hit belongs squarely in the realm of the arbitrary imposition of an alien force on a defenseless population. A Quiet Place concerns a family with three children trying to survive in a state with blind predators who resemble aliens or dinosaurs and respond only to sound, instantly devouring what they hear and conquer. The family must use sign language to communicate and clearly exist in a state of perpetual fear.
The withholding of conversation, television, music, telephone is an interesting concept for contemporary torture but it’s mitigated by a soundtrack that works against that fundamental plot point. The audience hears constant music and special effects - robbing us of the ability to empathize with the characters’ predicament. Without spoiling the most significant moments, I can tell you that the movie soon becomes a veritable pile-on of unbelievable occurrences. Emily Blunt (Mrs Krasinski) gives a sensitive portrayal of the pregnant mother but even she cannot rescue the suspension of disbelief for a scene in which she punctures her bare foot on a sharp nail, goes into labor, sees the creature enter her basement space, delivers a baby who cries and finds herself in a flooded zone with the creature inches away from the newborn , yet somehow they will be around for the rest of the movie.
This is lazy screenwriting since we have watched the creature’s M.O. several times before and there’s no rhyme or reason for its behavior here. Other scenes follow with similar disregard for common sense on the part of the family members. In general, it’s much too easy to instill fear where children are involved - it’s an amateur’s way of raising your heartbeat without earning that reward. A Quiet Place is a film for those who are not aficionados of the art of horror, but those who are content to take their reaction cues from the sound effects acting as the puppeteer. I recommend watching any of the masters available on Netflix or TCM or re-reading the stories of Edgar Allan Poe - preferably OUT LOUD.
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