'A Quiet Place' Sees John Krasinski Deliver A Majorly Effective Monster Movie [SXSW]

When one sense goes, the others are more heightened. It's the pretty simple foundation on which A Quiet Place is built, a largely dialogue-free film in which every sight, every texture, every movement lands harder than it would in a noisier picture. Director John Krasinski crafts a new and unusual monster movie, featuring creatures that are much gnarlier than you're probably expecting from an intimate festival entry by the filmmaker behind Brief Interviews with Hideous Men.

Keep reading our full A Quiet Place movie review below.

It's Day 89, the opening title card tells us, but of what we're still not certain. A family (Krasinski, Emily Blunt, Noah Jupe and Millicent Simmonds) move soundlessly through an abandoned city to the remote plantation they've made into their home. We start to realize that all this silence is in service of something: they're in mortal fear of spindly, lethal beasts that seem to be hidden all around them, monsters that are hyper-sensitive to sound. One wrong move, one sudden crash, and the creatures appear in seconds, enraged and impossibly fast.

While always crucial, sound design has rarely mattered more in a film. The family remains barefoot so as to avoid the clicking of heels on hard floors, and instead in the quiet we hear the padding of their feet. They play Monopoly with hand-made pieces, soft felt figures that hiss across the board. Wind whispering through trees, a snapping twig, the subtle currents of breath moving on the air – tiny auditory details we'd never normally notice are now impossible to ignore. A Quiet Place also creates an uncomfortable awareness of audience – coughs and shuffling rang out in our theater, which soon only grew louder with nervous giggles, followed by startled shrieks.

Because A Quiet Place is, above all else, really scary. Krasinki plays with tension in relentless waves, these cycles of fear and release, fear and release. So many of these recent contained horror films are all build-up and no pay-off, and A Quiet Place pays off again and again, with remarkable set pieces and long, unflinching looks at these arachnid beasts, their leathery, complicated physiques, endless caverns of teeth and giant, ghastly ears. The score is plaintive and mostly sparing, until the moments that our heroes are face to face with these horrifying creatures, and then it's almost louder than we can stand.

A Quiet Place Movie Review - Emily Blunt

As much as we instinctively fear these ogres from somewhere in our id, there's also a more elevated, emotional fear, because we like this family, and we want them to be okay. We know so little about them – not their names, not how they got here, not even what their voices sound like for much of the film. But with no words, they communicate beautifully – using American Sign Language, subtitled for the audience, but also just the simple, lovely language of performance. We learn their history through expression, their relationship dynamics through posture. Their movement is beautiful, the unconscious grace of navigating silence, always on tip-toes with delicate hands, understanding that they now live in a world where clumsiness is a deadly liability. These are all highly expressive actors, Krasinski and Blunt as warm and affecting as we've ever seen them, and Jupe and Simmonds carry an equal portion of the weight. We last saw Simmonds – a deaf actress, playing a deaf character in a silent world – in Wonderstruck, and she's every bit as tremendous here, a uniquely compelling presence whose thorny relationship with her dad grounds this monster movie into something more relatable and real.

But the grounding doesn't always work. It's easy to fall under A Quiet Place's spell, the intriguing silence and astonishing creature work forming a dark fairy tale atmosphere. But the film has moments that snap the audience out of its thrall – plot questions without answers, bits of missing logic, a wall in Krasinski's office where he gathers all he knows about these monsters like a detective in a serial killer movie, and all the clippings and notes we see are a little silly and trite. Krasinski wrote the screenplay with Bryan Woods and Scott Beck, and the storytelling feels a bit like the product of a committee rather than a singular vision. If you think too much about the logic behind A Quiet Place, it falls apart.

But it's still a remarkable achievement, a horror movie with exactly four actors and maybe five minutes of dialogue that remains utterly riveting to its final minute of screentime. It's technically polished and visually elegant, and it's the rare modern creature feature where we get a really, really good look at the bad guys. And damn, do they look good.

A Quiet Place hits theaters on April 6, 2018. Watch the trailer right here./Film Rating: 8 out of 10