It is eighty-nine days since the world as it was ended, since the population was hunted down and slaughtered, since civilisation broke down and government collapsed, the few scattered survivors the ones who realised that the only safety was to be found in a quiet place where the alien creatures could not track them.
One family who has survived are the Abbots, Lee and Evelyn and their children Regan, Marcus and Beau, walking barefoot through the small town where they forage for provisions, leaves blowing down the decaying streets and the bare aisles of the convenience stores, missing persons posters fluttering in the wind.
Conditioning the audience to silence as completely as the characters, A Quiet Place quickly teaches that there are no second chances should the cardinal rule be broken: resembling the Bioraptors of M6-117 from Pitch Black in their vicious pursuit, any overt noise summons the relentless clawed killing machines to perform an immediate execution of the violator.
In their remote farmhouse in the fields beyond the forest the Abbots go about their near-silent business of living over the following year; daughter Regan deaf since birth, they have the advantage of knowing sign language, but with Evelyn pregnant and the birth imminent there will be new dangers and responsibilities for all of them.
Directed by Away We Go‘s John Krasinski from a script co-written with Bryan Woods and Scott Beck from their story, A Quiet Place is an ambitious and original character-driven science fiction horror film in which, like Baby Driver, much of the dialogue is signed by the actors and subtitled on screen.
Millicent Simmonds who plays Regan having lost her hearing in early childhood, her character is the crux of the story, the necessity she forced upon her family having allowed them to survive even as her inability to hear the approach of danger is a liability to them, her difference inevitably isolating her despite the best efforts of her parents.
As Lee and Evelyn, Krasinski and his real-life wife, Edge of Tomorrow‘s Emily Blunt, are both compelling, expressing in their sad looks and whispered conversations a profound honesty in the desperation of their situation and their enduring hope for their children, lighting the fires at dusk, a beacon to signal their continued survival to the other survivors in the hills but invisible to the blind marauders.
Built on a simple yet effective idea, as both a horror film and a character drama A Quiet Place is a success, yet as a science fiction film it is little more than a run-of-the-mill monster movie, the dominance of the extra-terrestrial creatures presented as an unexamined fait accompli, their victory over mankind established with little more than a newspaper headline declaring them indestructible when they are not only demonstrably mortal but also have a very obvious weakness.
Lacking eyes but with a hypersensitivity to sound which allows them to track their prey, surely before civilisation collapsed someone would have realised how simple it would have been to lure the creatures into ambushes or booby traps? Similarly, despite the Abbots being aware of the haven of white noise, the flowing water of the river and the crashing of the waterfall, they have failed to employ it as a defence by simply placing wind chimes on every tree through the forest.
An interesting premise which should have been further developed to iron out the inconsistencies – soft soled shoes would have been as silent as bare feet and more practical and could easily have been removed in the house to set up the one scene where it becomes relevant – despite the genuine tension and the conviction of the ensemble, as the Abbots turn their weakness into a weapon A Quiet Place echoes nothing so much as the contrivance of M Night Shyamalan’s disappointing Signs.
A Quiet Place is on general release from Friday 7th April