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"A QUIET PLACE"
(2018) (Emily Blunt, John Krasinski) (PG-13)


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QUICK TAKE:
Horror: An isolated family tries to survive in a post-apocalyptic world that's been decimated by heavily armored and blind monsters that hunt by sound.
PLOT:
More than a year after their young son, Beau (CADE WOODWARD), was killed by heavily armored and blind monsters that hunt by sound and have decimated most of the world's population, the Abbott family is simply trying to survive by remaining as silent as possible in their post-apocalyptic world. While Evelyn (EMILY BLUNT) is due to deliver another child in a few weeks, Lee (JOHN KRASINSKI) is trying to develop a hearing aid that will help their deaf daughter, Regan (MILLICENT SIMMONDS), hear, when not taking their son, Marcus (NOAH JUPE), out beyond their remote farm to teach him how to survive.

The pending addition to their family puts them in an obvious bind as the baby is surely going to make noise, something they're doing their best to make sure won't draw the attention of the monsters that routinely arrive with even the slightest unusual sound. But with the baby's unexpected early arrival, the family must do what they can to remain quiet and thus avoid further monster attacks.

OUR TAKE: 7.5 out of 10
Most people likely think our current state of being and mind is highly advanced and civilized as compared to our ancient ancestors from eons ago. Yet, we still possess the same primitive portions of the brain that were designed solely to keep them alive in a world where various critters eyed them as their next meal.

Aside from actual real dangers that might exist in today's world where such reflexive and instinctual parts of the brain take over, most of that lower-level functioning is detrimental to a lot of people who resultantly live with fearful, worried or just negative mindsets. Of course, certain groups are smart enough to take advantage of that, and while I could write volumes about politicians and over fear-mongers who do just that for political and/or financial gain, we're going to focus here on those we actually enjoy spending time with.

And those are moviemakers who understand how those primitive brain functions work and use them to their advantage in manipulating viewers of various sorts of films that provide edge of your seat thrills or downright frightful chills. Dissect pretty much any horror film and you'll see such use, be that setting such scares in the dark, having things jump out for startle purposes, and having characters hide and not be seen or heard lest something really bad happen to them.

The "don't be heard" angle is played with to brilliant degrees in "A Quiet Place," a tight and highly efficient horror thriller that plays off a very simple premise. For reasons never explained or explored, the world has been overrun by alien-like monsters that may be blind, but are heavily armored and have highly tuned auditory functioning. That means they're nearly indestructible and hunt by sound. And with that advantage, they've apparently wiped out most of humankind, save for a handful of people here and there who somehow managed to survive the initial onslaught, but are just one wrong step and related sound from being gobbled up.

That might sound quite a bit like the 1990 film "Tremors" where subterranean "worms" likewise hunted by sound and related vibrations. Yet, while that film was played for straight-on camp (and entertainingly so), this one is played for pure dread and terror. Notwithstanding a few nitpicky script issues that most will possibly think about only after the 95-minute nightmare is over, this is an outstanding piece of horror filmmaking.

As directed by John Krasinski from a script he co-wrote with Bryan Woods & Scott Beck, the film begins with a prologue of sorts where we see the Abbott family quietly making their way through a deserted grocery store in a deserted town on day 89 of the never-explained apocalypse. They're successful at getting what they need and literally tiptoe out of the place, down the street and through the woods, briefly conversing only through sign language.

But little do mom, Evelyn (Emily Blunt), dad, Lee (Krasinski), and son, Marcus (Noah Jupe)), know that daughter Regan (Millicent Simmonds) has given youngest sibling Beau (Cade Woodward) back a space shuttle toy his father just took away from him for fear of it making noise. And little does Regan know that her little brother has also grabbed the batteries that were just removed. And thus the toy makes noise, and dad rushes to save his son as he partially sees one of the monsters racing their way.

The result might surprise viewers, with the story then jumping forward a bit more than a year where we see what's likely the worst possible scenario for the family outside of one of them developing uncontrollable hiccups or Tourette Syndrome. And that's the mom being nine months pregnant and, well, babies can make a lot of noise once they show up in the world.

It might have been interesting had Krasinski and company gone down the "Sophie's Choice" path regarding choosing the safety of her two surviving children vs. her yet-to-be-born one. But that would have introduced moral quandaries and all involved are obviously more interested in simply stacking the frights and they do so with stellar aplomb.

Yes, many a horror film necessitates those who wish to survive to remain quiet, but not like this flick where dialogue (even through subtitles) is minimal and sounds of various types portray the dangers that are ever present. Throw in the pending birth and having Megan not only be deaf (and thus unable to hear the monsters or the sounds she makes) but also feeling guilty over her sibling's death and thus unloved by her father, and the situation is a powder keg that's simply waiting to go boom.

It certainly doesn't hurt that the four performers make a completely believable family and all deliver top-notch performances where most of the acting has to be done through facial expressions and body movement rather than dialogue. You end up caring for each and every one one of them, something that elevates this offering high above most genre pics where many of the characters are nothing but fodder for the cinematic meat grinder.

All of that said, the film does require some suspension of disbelief (yes, even in one where monster attacks have resulted in a post-apocalyptic scenario). For starters, and notwithstanding that real-life people do have sex during dire circumstances (thus mini baby booms nine months after bad events), I seriously doubt any smart couple would allow a pregnancy to occur in this case. That's not only due to having just lost a child in a horrific way, but also the thought of bringing a new life into a hellscape of a world, and one where such a baby's natural tendencies would make it and thus the family sitting ducks for future monster attacks.

And speaking of that, it's never explained how the monsters get around. We know they're blind and hunt by sound, but they're able to maneuver quite well without bumping into things, meaning they must be using echolocation or something similar, which should mean they could easily pick out their prey like bats and dolphins do.

Yes, that's a case of over-analytical nitpicking, but those are things that should have and easily could have been addressed and used to an ever greater storytelling advantage. Even so, what we're left with is a gripping, edge of your seat thriller that's tight and effective in generating the scares by manipulating those old reptilian parts of our brains we still carry around with us. "A Quiet Place" is sure to generate lots of screams from viewers and thus rates as a 7.5 out of 10.




Reviewed April 2, 2018 / Posted April 6, 2018


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