John Krasinski hasn’t quite achieved the full Jordan Peele.
But he does grab plenty of attention with “A Quiet Place,” a horror film about blind creatures lurking outside a family’s home.
Because those intruders (part insect, part “Alien” monster) have supersensitive hearing, the family has to abstain from speaking and making any extraneous noise.
The consequences are brutal – early on, a son is killed when he plays with a toy rocket. Knowing as much, the survivors don’t wear shoes, use sign language to speak and operate out of padded rooms that enable them to at least search for answers to what is plaguing the world.
In addition to directing, Krasinski co-wrote the screenplay and stars as the dad. Emily Blunt, his real-life wife, plays his spouse; Millicent Simmonds and Noah Jupe are two of the children. They’re all very good at this game (which most couldn’t sustain) and willing to somehow do in the three creatures that hover.
Because mom is pregnant, there’s a good bet she’s going to scream at some point, so dad has rigged the house for maximum silence and set up fireworks in a field to distract. There’s also a rusty nail that should have been taken care of, but that’s a later plot point.
Krasinski spills this out in due time and, in the process, makes points about love, loss and preparation. He also works neatly with the sound designers, giving us a taste of what the daughter (who’s hearing-impaired) hears regularly. He spots sound around the theater, too, and makes the audience feel like it’s surrounded by the creatures.
Two white boards spell out the things dialogue can’t, but they’re pretty basic (and would have been erased long before we drop into the action). Instead of drawing on his children’s smarts, the dad tries to handle all of this alone. Left alone, the kids are quite smart – and come up with a way of killing a creature that might have been advantageous months earlier.
Set on a farm – during harvest, no less – “A Quiet Place” raises plenty of questions – including the issue of planting. Who put in all that corn? And what was everyone planning to do about it? The parents don’t talk about the dead son, either, leading the survivors to wonder how they fare in the family hierarchy.
Blunt handles the situation well – she has extremely expressive eyes and an ability to telegraph plenty without uttering a word. Krasinski gets a “talking” scene with Jupe that works and, while there’s no hope that anyone exists outside the confines of the farm, it’s safe to assume life will go on.
While this doesn’t have a broader message (as Peele’s “Get Out” did), it does scare in ways most recent horror films haven’t. It addresses the disconnect that festers in families and says an outside force, sometimes, can be a catalyst for change.
Krasinski lets everyone have a tearful moment (Blunt wins the competition for most natural) and restrains himself from overwhelming the story.
We’re still not sure why everyone can’t wear shoes (particularly in the house), but “Quiet Place” certainly convinces us to rethink our post “Shape of Water” policy regarding aliens. It’s not one big bathtub of fun.