'A Quiet Place' Is A Horror Movie For Non-Horror Fans (And That's Okay)

(Welcome to The Soapbox, the space where we get loud, feisty, political, and opinionated about anything and everything. In this edition: A Quiet Place is a good horror movie, even if it's not a horror movie made for horror fans.)A Quiet Place is an easy movie to love. It was directed and co-written by John Krasinski, star of The Office, who oozes the same sort of self-deprecating American charm that made Jennifer Lawrence a superstar. Krasinski acts in the film alongside his equally likable real-life wife Emily Blunt and a cadre of cute kid actors. It has a simple, air-tight conceit: a family is forced to live in silence after the world is occupied by alien creatures who are drawn to sound. The world-building is effective, the scares all earned, and the emotional core is well-developed. The ingredients are all there, and for the most part they gel.A Quiet Place is a good movie – but is it a good horror movie? Spoilers follow.

The answer is, of course, subjective. The film made $50 million in its opening weekend – the second-highest domestic release of the year so far, after Black Panther – and has a 97% on Rotten Tomatoes, so it's certainly a popular horror movie. Even dyed-in-the-wool horror fans seem to agree its a fun ride. And it is. But it's also an aggressively clean piece of genre filmmaking; clean in every sense of the word, as blood is sparse, the darker things left unseen, and the things that should be truly frightening – like silently giving birth – are relatively anemic. It's an accessible window into the horror genre for non-fans, but it's full of heart instead of fire.

But make no mistake: A Quiet Place is firmly a horror movie. It lives and breathes horror tropes, trickling out details that pay off later – like an unfortunately placed jagged nail, or stringed lights that glisten red in danger – and ramping up the tension and scares in the third act. Veteran horror composter Marco Beltrami is a real asset here, adding flavor to the film without overloading on it.

A Quiet Place writers

It's funny that it works so well considering Krasinski's admission that he's was "never was a big horror guy, because I was just too scared." It was the family stuff that drew him in, and their dynamic is what truly anchors A Quiet Place. But it's also what keeps the film safe – arguably to a fault. Not that the family doesn't go through hell, because they do; they are grieving the death of a son, which fractures their unit beyond surface-level grief. Eldest daughter Regan (Millicent Simmonds) – who is deaf, a nice touch – blames herself for her brother's death, and thinks her dad does, too. Evelyn (Blunt) is heavily pregnant, which casts the film in shades of dread, but also speaks to their shared loss. Are they replacing their dead kid, or merely looking for hope in a hopeless world? It's never asked out loud, but it echoes through the story. Every shot of her belly speaks to something deeper, darker.

But the film never delves into that darkness. The birth goes off without a hitch, which is almost absurd. The baby never cries, and Evelyn – despite ripping her foot open on a nail moments earlier – is conveniently mobile for the finale. Krasinski's Lee gets a noble sacrifice, but we don't see what the monster does to him, and it comes after a hokey declaration of love that feels at odds with the film's otherwise even keel. Horror doesn't have to be cynical, but true staples of the genre have an ugliness not easily defined. A Quiet Place wears its heart on its sleeve, instead of digging in and excavating it. That's probably why non-horror folk have had a better time with it than something like The Witch or mother!, which both garnered miserable Cinemascores and mixed reviews, but have thrived as favorites for horror purists.

Instead, A Quiet Place fits into the same category as last year's horror smash, It, a splashy studio horror film that doesn't, ultimately, have that much to say. Both are enjoyable rides with a strong cast, and work like gangbusters in the moment, but neither have that nightmarish sheen that lingers in the dark after-hours. Things are mostly patched up. Hope is restored, at least for now. It doesn't scratch the errant itch that the best horror movies do. They're easy films to watch and understand, and they don't ask too much of their audience.

A Quiet Place John Krasinski

For horror fans, there exists an inherent desire to see the world the way other people do. Good horror feels like recognition; like someone is decoding things for us. When you are prone to suffering, there is an element of salvation in horror. It speaks to the nasty thing inside of us, and tells us we're not alone. It asks questions and opens the wounds because it knows that's what we need to heal. We leave feeling changed in some fundamental way. A Quiet Place, a solid attempt with all the right pieces, never really gets there. It's about the horrors of parenting, yes, but lacks the galvanizing uniqueness of something like The Babadook or the shattering reality of The Road or Night of the Living Dead.

Still, it's hard to be cynical about the success of A Quiet Place when you consider the exposure and legitimacy its lending to the genre. Revitalized interest in horror will open the door for more unique takes, and something like A Quiet Place is a good way of courting new fans, just like Get Out was last year. Hopefully, it'll bring enough people in to make something like this summer's Hereditary – which currently boasts a 100% on Rotten Tomatoes after debuting at Sundance, and is already getting the "scariest movie ever" tag – another major hit. That film is directed by Ari Aster, whose viral short "The Strange Thing About the Johnsons" is so deranged that it's almost impossible to watch. There's no way Hereditary plays it nice (ed. note: it doesn't), and it'll be wild to see how audiences – and studios – respond.

If there was ever a golden age for horror films, it's now; we live in a world where Get Out is a Best Picture nominee, and where horror films are among the highest-grossing of the year. It's a new dawn for the genre, and it's hard to fault something like A Quiet Place, tender though it may be, for finding its place. But it'd be nice for the next major horror hit to be something a little headier. Let the baby cry.