Silent Survival: “A Quiet Place” by John Krasinski | Review

Thriller-horror skillfully built around the theme of “fear of the neighbor,” A Quiet Place by John Krasinski is a masterful and tense ticking time bomb.
A Quiet Place (2018)


A Quiet Place (2018)
Directed by John Krasinski

The Enemy Listens

A family lives in absolute silence, fearing an unknown threat that follows only sound and attacks at any noise…

At some point in life, everyone encounters neighbors who dislike noise, and during some festive event, they might bang a broom on the floor or tap the walls. The issue of “good” neighbors is much more central in American culture than in ours, here in the old continent, where we are used to sharing living spaces, streets, cities, and crowded apartment buildings. Just think of how much American cinema has celebrated or turned into nightmares the dream of a single-family home, with a small front lawn, a white fence, and a station wagon in the garage (see Blue Velvet by David Lynch as a prime example). This issue has deep roots in the New World, tracing back to its founding, with the pioneers’ tumultuous arrival, ready to break the peace of a terrestrial paradise and its inhabitants in the name of a supposed “manifest destiny.”

Krasinski’s third feature film, after Brief Interviews with Hideous Men (2009, based on the eponymous collection of stories by David Foster Wallace) and the indie-family drama The Hollars (2016), seen at the Rome Film Festival, reworks these ancient issues into a tasty horror mix. Known for his role in the TV series The Office and appearances in Away We Go (2009) by Sam Mendes and as both actor and co-screenwriter in Promised Land by Gus Van Sant, Krasinski this time approaches the horror genre, incorporating intriguing notes on his culture, somewhat present in his previous works.

The novelty of this third film lies in the heartfelt and at times playful homage to the genre, with political echoes reminiscent of Romero, supernatural hints at Shyamalan (think The Village, The Happening, and especially Signs), and explicit Western nods to John Carpenter (Assault on Precinct 13).

The film starts in medias res: America and most likely the entire world are in a post-apocalyptic state reminiscent of I Am Legend (book and film), and in a deserted provincial town, a family—father (Krasinski), mother (Emily Blunt), and three children—wanders “zombie-like” among the semi-empty shelves of a supermarket, the last vestiges of a now extinct capitalism. It is immediately clear that their main goal, besides procuring food and medicine, is to make no sound, as “someone” might hear them. Krasinski establishes a state of tension from the outset, primarily because the two adults are accompanied by naturally noisy creatures (the three children), and also due to a significant detail: the eldest daughter wears a hearing aid and, as highlighted by her auditory subjective shots, is deaf.

Constructed like a skillful clockwork mechanism, A Quiet Place continues by illustrating the silent daily life of the surviving post-pioneer family. Confined in a farmhouse-fortress, besieged by hyper-hearing creatures ready to devour anyone who makes any sound, this family unit navigates between silent meals, quiet games of Monopoly (another reference to the vanished capitalism), hunting for the men, and laundry (but without running water) for the women. Another clue heightens the constant tension: the mother, having lost a child to the ravenous creatures, is pregnant again. The implicit motto imposed by the new invaders is “and you shall give birth in silence,” blending horror with Western elements and reversing the relationship between natives and neo-pioneers.

Surely, cohabitation is not easy given the circumstances, but A Quiet Place does eventually deliver the much-desired “weak point” of the villain at the right moment, with impeccable narrative construction. However, the question remains: might they be right after all?

With A Quiet Place, John Krasinski achieves more than a successful exercise in style, but also something less than a truly innovative thriller-horror-Western. In truth, there is a novelty in reinterpreting some topoi of American culture, while crafting a successful metaphor for the parental role. However, A Quiet Place likely does not seek novelty and, with implicit references from the works of Romero, Shyamalan, and Carpenter, manages to entertain with a couple of hours of well-built, mounting tension. And that is no small feat; in fact, it is quite commendable, this derivative style done well.

Daria Pomponio

Quinlan, April 4, 2018



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