Silence has never been so terrifying. In his most recent film, John Krasinski—yes, the same John Krasinski that stars as Jim Halpert in “The Office”—has created a unique, powerful thriller that arrived in theaters on April 6. While most horror movies focus on jump scares and increasing volume to startle audiences, “A Quiet Place” hones in on the absence of sound, and even the danger of making sound. The characters remain largely unnamed, despite having name credits on IMDB, adding to the sense of necessity of staying quiet for the family. By reducing sound to the bare minimum, the impact of even hearing an actor’s voice is powerful.
The opening of the film is a black screen with the words “Day 89” written, already creating questions. What happened on day one? What is the threat? Newspaper headlines saying “IT’S SOUND,” “IT CAN HEAR YOU,” and “YOU ARE ON YOUR OWN” prompt even more questions. Flashing to day 472, Krasinski has written on a whiteboard, “Number in area: 3 Confirmed,” and “Weakness?” among other notes, all begging more questions. What is the threat? Is it an alien? What is happening? There are clearly very few survivors of whatever it is, as Krasinki’s family is one of only two shown on screen throughout the entire film.
As the film progresses, the ways they survive are made clear. A nearby town provides medical supplies and canned food, their farm provides countless vegetables and other food sources, and Krasinki attempts to find a way to defeat the threat. The creatures that are doing the killing have very sensitive ears, much larger and more detailed than human ears, which is how they locate victims. They are blind and rely on their powerful ears, and can hear from miles away. Their weakness is exposed, but not in time for all members of Krasinkis’s family to survive.
One important factor which contributes to the success of this film is that one actress, Millicent Simmonds, is deaf in real life. Her character in the film is also deaf, and Krasinski is trying to create a hearing aid that helps her hear but none of his attempts work. This casting choice differs from one of this year’s biggest films, “The Shape of Water,” for which the casting decision was made to cast Sally Hawkins as a mute character despite her not being mute in real life. Krasinski requested that Millicent be cast for the role, which is an example of positive change happening in the film industry in 2018. “Black Panther” continues to break box office records and is now the third-highest grossing film domestically of all time, and is top ten internationally of all-time, proving the assumption that “black films don’t make money” wrong. Story, culture, and so many more aspects create a successful film, not race.
In “A Quiet Place,” ability is a non-issue. Sign language is almost exclusively the language used in the film, expect for a couple of moments. Millicent even taught co-star Noah Jupe sign language on set. This is an example of how ability does not have to impact a person’s impact on a film. John Krasinski and Emily Blunt are married in real life and play husband and wife on camera as well. The connections and emotion shown in this film are real. Millicent’s use of ASL is very passionate, and so is the connection Krasinski and Blunt share.
The use of music in this film is also very powerful. As the sounds of daily life are not used frequently, the space is filled by a significant amount of music. Marco Beltrami’s score captures passion, fear, and other emotions to create tense moments contrasted with moving moments shared between the family members. The growing concern throughout the film is that Blunt’s character becomes pregnant. How should the family go about adding a member to their family without anaesthetic and having Blunt’s character remain quiet? It is seemingly impossible to survive that moment, but careful planning was done for the event. In sound’s absence, conversation has been rid of, making any production of sound being done in only a few circumstances: pain, fear, and anger, to name a few.
The creature that is so feared is unknown for a majority of the film, much like in 2017’s “The Ritual,” where the creature is not revealed until the final ten minutes of the movie. In “A Quiet Place,” the arachnid/reptile/monster that has descended upon Earth, or at least this part of the United States, is shown only in blurs for most of the movie, then introduced in part. When the first closeup of the creature’s massive, undulating ears is shown on camera, fear strikes not only the characters, but also the audience. An audible inhale was taken by the full theater when the creature was shown fully for the first time.
After viewing, one could almost look at the film as if the creature was the one trying to survive. Each of its victims is not consumed by the creature, but rather they have a mortal wound. It appears that the hypersensitive ears of the creatures are what cause them pain, and that they need absolute quiet to be at ease. The creatures are not seen near waterfalls and do not move unless provoked by external stimulus. Is it possible that they are trying to survive by eradicating all creatures that make sounds? In a survival film, being able to connect with the monster is difficult, but Krasinski helps you connect with not only his on-screen family, but all living things. They are doing their best to survive, but cannot do that if the other is alive.
“A Quiet Place” has taken the thriller back to its roots of being genuinely creepy instead of being reliant on deafening the audience with intense music and jump scares. By weaponizing sound, such an essential characteristic of the human condition, “A Quiet Place” becomes a type of survival film that requires the characters to adapt. The best horror films, including films like “Alien,” focus on the characters’ ability to adapt and thrive. Their security is constantly is danger, and by adapting, surviving, and fighting the family proves their ability to survive the danger around them.
Jonathan is a junior double majoring in Economic and Finance and English Writing and minoring in Music. He enjoys music, traveling, hammocking, drinking tea, and listening to records. This is his second semester writing for the Concordian!