Sound plays an important role in the horror genre. So much of the fear that is created on screen stems from atmospheric music and sound effects, whether they be loud, explosive jump scares or subtle, bone-chilling background noises.
2016 gave us two horror movies that sought to subvert our expectations about sound in horror: “Hush,” directed by Mike Flanagan, and “Don’t Breathe,” directed by Fede Alvarez.
“Hush” focused around the plight of a deaf woman being hunted in her own home by a murderer, featuring many scenes completely devoid of sound. “Don’t Breathe” focused on an antagonist that hunted the main characters by listening for the sounds they made. Both well-made horror/thrillers were made by experienced horror filmmakers.
Last week, a new horror film came out, taking elements of both films and combining them into a new movie that outdid the other two twice over at the box office.
John Krasinski, or Jim Halpert from “The Office,” directed the film “A Quiet Place.” This movie is an original horror/thriller. He and his wife Emily Blunt star alongside child actors Millicent Simmons and Noah Jupe.
The movie centers around their family in the months following an alien invasion. The film’s central antagonists are monstrous members of an alien race that lack any sort of vision. In place of their vision, the creatures possess an acute sense of hearing and a voracious appetite. To sum the premise up in a sentence: any clearly audible noise leads to death within a minute.
This fact creates a unique situation: a horror film that is nearly silent for its majority. This creates a new kind of scare for the director to toy with. Suddenly, we are not so afraid of monsters and blood, but knocked over lanterns and toys falling from shelves. Every single sound becomes life or death, and it makes the audience listen as much as they watch.
Yes, there are jump scares. Yes, they are scary. Unlike cheaper, less original thrillers, the jump scares never detract from what is happening on screen. In no way does “A Quiet Place” rely on cheap scares and quick thrills. The atmosphere, the suffocating silence, the way the audience hopes for a line of dialogue like they hope for a breath of air, is the selling point of the movie.
With barely any dialogue, the actors play their parts to the fullest. Lacking any lasting conversations, the plot moves along briskly. Krasinski is committed to his film and is clearly passionate about its world and characters.
However, a few flaws can be found sprinkled throughout. Movie fans that go to the theater seeking to nitpick and poke holes will find plenty. The film’s most disappointing feature is a trope that is frankly infuriating in apocalypse/horror media. The “kid makes stupid decisions and endangers everyone for no reason other than he’s a kid” cliché. The film has two children, and both suffer from this quality at one point or another. Looking back on everything as a whole, this does little to detract from the overall quality of the story.
“A Quiet Place” is a unique, original horror film from a well-known actor making his directorial debut. It has a solid, impressive acting talent behind it and a well-executed premise. Support an original film and a new director, and check it out in theaters.