A Quiet Place Masters Horror’s Greatest Weapon
Throughout Horror’s long history, sound has always played one of the most important characters. Think of your favorite scare or moment in any horror film (or the one that kept you up at night as a kid). Sound’s prevalence in horror can actually be explained scientifically, but it doesn’t take an expert filmmaker to understand that good sound design can make or break a horror film.
Now think back to those same jump scares that utilize sound so well, and imagine if they were the only points with sound in the movie. It would drastically increase the impact of the scene.
This is effectively what A Quiet Place manages to achieve throughout its 90-minute duration. The movie metaphorically starves you of sounds, going so far as to have total silence during certain points, and the resulting contrast between very quiet and very loud is stark.
A Quiet Place also uses that initial concept to add in some interesting elements on top of it. Having a main character be deaf in a film in which making any sound means death is fascinating, and the resulting tension between the deaf character, played by Millicent Simmonds, and John Krasinski’s father character make for some complicated moments.
One overlooked hurdle within a movie with little/no sound is the amount of nonverbal communication the actors have to be able not just to accomplish, but do so convincingly. Fortunately, the small cast are all fantastic at acting without speaking, not just showing the right emotions thoughts without voicing them, but by doing enough for the situation. There are some particularly terrifying, tense, and gut-wrenching moments, elevated even higher by the cast’s ability act silently.
I could gush on and on about the sound design and its originality, more so than I have already, but I’d also be remiss not to mention the smart writing and excellent chemistry between the cast. Krasinsky has created a story that’s highly detailed with smart characters and a world that shows you things and doesn’t tell – an important thing to have in a movie with virtually no sound.
The family aspects of this film set it apart as well. No matter how thrilling or scary a film is, it doesn’t mean anything if you don’t care about the characters. Krasinsky said in an interview that he viewed this project more as a love letter to his kids than a true horror film, and that perspective clearly helped intertwine a feeling a family and togetherness throughout.
This isn’t to say that A Quiet Place is perfect. There was one key element to the story that I saw coming immediately, and I also couldn’t help but wonder how the cast managed to do things like handle a particularly loud poo without making any noise. However, A Quiet Place is smart enough to stay within a small scope, and do enough things correctly that it doesn’t have to try