A Quiet Place (2018) Review
There’s nothing in the world I despise more than Popcorn, the accompanying disgustingly loud RATTLING sound one makes when fishing for a fistful of it in an abnormally large and obnoxious bucket and the ear-splitting CRUNCH when you chomp on it. But if you really – really want to know why I feel so strongly about an activity most consider synonymous with movie watching – you need to watch a horror movie. Or, at least one that’s really good. One that raises the bar for tension, stringing you along like a puppet on a silent show, slowing the world down to heighten the most overlooked part of our sensory experience.
Let me start the self-proclaimed award-winning thesis on the Horror movie genre by straight up stating that scary tropes have gotten stale. It’s still fun to jump with fear every once in a while, but for the most part – they’re like a Donald Trump joke. We still laugh about it every now and then, but it’s been a while since the sheer stupidity of it all baffled us like it did in the beginning. It’s becoming predictable now. Too predictable. Like my mom throwing shit at me when I tell her “shit” is not really an abusive word.
When there’s a sound in a pitch black scary-ass basement, we know the protagonist is going to do the dumbest shit possible and head straight towards it. And, when the actor starts backing towards the edge of the frame, we also know there’s a jump scare waiting just beyond our field of view. In fact, I’ll go out on a limb here and say the severe lack of ingenuity in modern horror movies scare me more than the lame ass attempts to throw in cliché jump scares in dark basement scenes.
But “A Quiet Place” – naaaah –
There’s something here that takes a hold of you from the moment it begins, something -.. different and exquisitely crafted.
It’s silent from the get-go, establishes the context of the world they’re living in, introduces the entire family and illustrates why even the slightest sound can kill you. Oh, and it does all this while cutting to the chase – literally – from the opening sequence itself.
While you’re shown enough about the existing world to care about the story through the happenings on screen, it is the really the newspaper cuttings and populated whiteboards, which allow you to truly grasp the subtleties of this savage, post-apocalyptic world they’re living in. You know humanity is on the brink of extinction – and you’re concentrating on a single family being hunted by beings that are attracted to sound. You know there’s almost no way to get out of this alive. You know “physics” is a foreign concept introduced by the British to subjugate Indian cinema with unfair rules and laws that bind us to logical conclusions and unimpressive stunts. You basically know a lot more than you should.
But highlight of this movie lies not in the unexpected, but rather in the delivery of the “spoilers”.
Yeah, I just said that. The beauty of this movie is in the irony of its approach. Traditionally, directors have always relied on the unseen element of surprise to scare us. We don’t know what’s behind that door. We don’t know what’s inside that cupboard. We don’t know what’s inside the head of a dude that loves pineapple on his frikking pizza. But what if we did. What if we were deliberately shown what was going to happen, way before it actually did? It’s like you’re walking the plank of a pirate ship, with a blindfold with holes in it – fully aware of the impending doom. So the movie ends up doing something brilliantly unique – it increases the duration of the tension. Cause everyone knows the actual drop in the roller coaster barely lasts a second or 2 – but it’s the climb to the crest, and the peering over the edge – yeah, that’s the part that really kills you.
That’s what real fear is.
And that’s what the director of this movie gets spot on.
The movie then merges this unique approach, with another stellar idea – the idea of raising the stakes of fear by diverting our attention to fewer senses than we’re used to. It’s kind of like how a blind person tends to develop superhuman hearing. The director makes us deaf, temporarily – with most conversations showed using hand gestures, even going as far as muting ambient sounds altogether when the perspective switches to the only deaf member in the family. So, you’ve got creatures with superhuman hearing, hunting a character who cannot hear the sounds she is making herself. Which is, by itself, intriguing enough to make a standalone movie. This movie does what IMAX advertisements have been telling us for years – it kinda makes you a “part of the movie”, rather than a spectator. It puts you in the shoes of each character, and you feel their plight deeply.
You want them to win, but you know they can’t, because the movie keeps crushing any semblance of hope with every passing moment.
We were like an orchestra, the conductor replaced by the director, cringing in unison at the sight of the pain and the helpless horror of a world we’re consciously, yet unceremoniously, being thrown into. That heightened sense of anticipation – waiting for the slightest sound, with everyday household items along shelves now transformed into deadly obstacles just waiting for gravity to kick-start the horror. That chaos and spine-chilling terror compounded by the sound of heartbeats and eerie soundtracks surgically cutting through the anticipation and easing in the fear, one careful slice at a time. This movie, unlike almost all modern “horror” movies, is not a gore fest with needlessly objectified college teens being ripped to shreds in all their CGI guts filled glory.
It is a movie that is above all a battle for survival. A testament to our spirit, and we – the audience – are meant to root passionately for the humans.
Because in the midst of a desperate attempt to survive, the director also manages to propose a remarkably original theory about the idea that only true parental love can eventually lead the battle for humanity in the face of insurmountable odds. And it makes a strong point indeed, since the strength derived from protecting the ones we love tends to surpass most predictable physical and mental barriers. It is this part that truly takes the movie to another level – superseding almost all horror movies, to make it very near the top of my list (or maybe a close second just under “It Follows”). And while you may be sceptical about the validity of such a bold claim, my lips are sealed by the impossible attempt to not give you any spoilers in this review. Which is a damn shame, cause there’s at least a hundred pages worth of discussion if I were to include the actual spoiler-filled movie events.
But I bet you’re wondering something – how come you haven’t mentioned the name of the director? Or the primary protagonist? Because there’s no doubt the acting in this movie is every bit as impressive as the concept and the plot itself. So, without further ado – The Director is a guy I’d never heard of before – a certain Mr. John Krasinski.
Who’s also the main protagonist!
Which is a relatively rare occurrence worthy of recognition and applause in itself. And since we’re on the topic of trivia, he also happens to be the real life (as well as on-screen) husband of the second protagonist of the film – a certain Emily Blunt – of “Sicario” fame. Then there’s the daughter in the movie – Millicent Simmonds – who’s deaf (again in real life and on-screen) and was as exceptional in this movie as she was in ‘Wonderstruck’. And finally, there’s Noah Jupe (the brother/son), a kid who had a significant side role in “Wonder”, rounding off the list of actors that helped make this movie as close to perfect as possible.
Everyone plays their part to absolutely convincing precision – kind of like a Quattro Formaggi’s combination of 4 individually-unimpressive-but-collectively-unique cheeses make it the most epic pizza ever.
Admittedly not the best analogy, but I like Pizza. And cheese. And food in general.
So – coming back to the (now stale and soggy) Popcorn you’d forgotten about since the beginning. I must reiterate that it is a truly remarkable and loathsome thing. They start off as innocent balls of corn, and POP most unexpectedly when you heat them, releasing all the tension of the quiet before the storm. You wouldn’t hear it if it was noisy outside. You know they’re going to pop eventually. And most importantly – you know there’s nothing else like it out there.
Kinda like this movie.
The only difference being, I loved the movie.
And I still hate popcorn.