Review: ‘A Quiet Place’ adds to the oeuvre of cerebral horror movies

Unlike his previous directorial efforts, John Krasinski is topping charts with his new horror film, A Quiet Place. The thriller, which came out last Friday, grabbed the top spot in this weekend’s box office results, pushing out Steven Spielberg’s new Ready Player One in the process. Krasinski and his real-life wife, Emily Blunt, play the father and mother in the Abbott family, living in a post-apocalyptic world in which humans are hunted by alien-like creatures. These monsters rely on sound to navigate and hunt for their prey, forcing the family to scavenge for supplies, communicate soundlessly and live in complete silence in order to survive.

Real-life couple John Krasinski and Emily Blunt play Lee and Evelyn Abbott, respectively. Photo from IMDB.

The inventive premise of the film brings a fresh take to the horror genre, a change that has been sorely needed in recent years. The hook — that making noise will result in immediate danger — made for an extremely thrilling film. By carefully playing with the sound design within the movie, Krasinski created a world of constant suspense in which one wrong step could cause characters to fear for their lives. Particularly impressive was Krasinski’s choice to include a hearing-impaired actress, Millicent Simmonds, to play his daughter. This creates an environment in which the audience constantly knows more about the present dangers than one of the characters.

Although the premise is well-executed at face value, it is not without its faults. Krasinski, an actor known for his ability to communicate subtly but effectively with his facial expressions, was a perfect fit for his role as Lee Abbott. He convincingly conveyed and expressed the hard-hitting emotions of love and loss all while remaining completely silent. Here, he takes on a drastically different role than his best-known portrayal of Jim Halpert from NBC’s wildly popular The Office, and the risk paid off. Few actors can move beyond their most iconic roles as well as Krasinski can; he merged with the character well, leaving no semblance of the goofy and lovable office prankster Halpert through the courage and ruggedness of his performance in A Quiet Place.

Emily Blunt was fantastic as Evelyn Abbott, the pregnant mother of the family. Blunt arguably plays the strongest character in the film. Expecting to bring a child into the hectic and dangerous world, she must deal with the struggles and pains of pregnancy all while remaining completely silent. In one intense scene, Blunt must deliver her child without making any sound whatsoever. A mother in real life, Blunt did not lack the experience needed to play such a compassionate and strong woman.

The movie’s embrace of cliche horror tropes was frustrating, especially given the other original elements within the movie. On top of the shocking instances of on-screen gore in the movie, the suspense the movie provided was riddled with uninspired jump scares.

The score under the suspenseful scenes was not particularly interesting and somewhat predictable. At times, Krasinski used the music essentially to tell the audience “feel suspense here” and “jump here.” The loud and at times jarring score detracted from the suspense and tension fueled by the silence in the movie. Overall, these tropes were an unfortunate stain on what was ostensibly an original horror movie.

Ultimately, Krasinski’s horror debut was a fantastic success. The premise was intriguing enough to pull $50 million in ticket sales its opening weekend. Krasinski’s impressive casting made for a sincere family unit marked by compassion, authenticity and relatable conflict in family dynamics. The multidimensional characters drove the plot forward and outshined problems within the movie. Krasinski’s A Quiet Place will certainly be a horror movie that inspires how other directors create drama and characters within the genre.