I realize that horror films are generally full-to-bursting with characters who make poor choices.
It’s par for the course in scary movies for characters to go upstairs when they should be going out the front door (wasn’t that a line of dialogue from Scream?)
But in what is meant to be a serious fright flick, I simply cannot abide with moronic choices by characters – which doesn’t allow me to put forward an ounce of sympathy for said characters’ well-being.
And if your characters are just too stupid for me to give a s***, then you’ve failed as filmmaker.
Here we have A Quiet Place.
In the aftermath of what was apparently an alien invasion, a family headed by Lee (John Krasinksi) and Evelyn (Emily Blunt) lives in a rural, wooded area on their vast farm. Everything they do with their three children – must be done in absolute silence. For you see, the aliens which roam the countryside, hunt by sound. As the tagline goes, if they hear you, they hunt you.
The attention to detail on how the family functions, in light of these dangers – is impressive. Barefoot walking. Sand on the paths throughout their property, to dull their footfalls. They all know sign language so can communicate silently. They even eat meals on leaves of lettuce, rather than on noisy, clinking plates.
The creature effects (don’t be throwin’ no shade about spoilers – the trailers and television ads pretty much revealed that there’s some sort of monster) are pretty convincing and the design is grotesque (that super-duper ear-drum – yecchhh!) While not completely original (it looks like a reject from the Resident Evil films), the monsters are still effective.
All of the performances are good. Real-life couple Blunt and Krasinksi (who also directs here) offer up their usual good work (producing high emotion and real tears when necessary). But there’s not much for them to do but make their characters fearful and cautious (we’ll get to that “reactive” idea in a bit).
As eldest daughter Regan, Millicent Simmonds does a great job of bringing forth loads of emotion to the character. Regan’s got some baggage and she’s also clearly frustrated and bored with the family’s tip-toeing existence. There are plenty of moments where she is allowed to tearfully emote, and you’ll certainly enjoy this semi-newcomer’s performance.
The locations, camerawork and lighting are quite good. It’s a good score from Marco Beltrami (the Scream franchise). And there is a decent amount of tension in a few of the scenes.
Also, since there’s such minimal dialogue, the film relies heavily on sound design. And in that department, it certainly excels. I might even expect some Oscar attention for these designers, come award season next year. The sound is so amazingly detailed and it was lovely to jump a bit at the slightest of what we might consider “normal” sounds. Nicely done.
With all of that, clearly I can’t really find any fault in the film’s technical aspects.
It’s the story. It’s the character choices. It’s the plot holes upon plot holes which I am taking issue with here. And boy howdy, there are a lot of them.
The central idea is nifty. But this is one of those examples of a feature film which would have been more appropriate in a short film format. There’s just not enough mileage to be had with this concept – which was quite obvious around the halfway point. How can the filmmakers make these people make some noise… regardless of how idiotic it makes the characters look? Sigh.
It’d be tough to point out all of the inconsistencies in the story – without spoiling. But right off the bat – in the film’s prologue – there are quite a few. Why would the youngest kid be made to walk in the very back of the family pack? Wouldn’t there be one parent in the lead and one to bring up the rear?
And in a survival situation like this – where no mistakes can be made and where nothing can be left to chance – why on earth would you choose to bring another child into the world? The excuse you’d probably expect to hear from the writers – is flimsy and cannot be justified.
I was reminded of a scene out of Deceived, the 1991 psychological thriller starring Goldie Hawn. In the midst of a desperate situation, Hawn’s character must attempt to take back a valuable piece of jewelry which was given to a small child by accident. The parents of said child try to coddle the kid and explain very lightly why they must give up the necklace. Of course, Hawn’s character is in a time-crunch, so after a few moments of, “Sometimes adults do things that children don’t understand”, Hawn grabs the jewelry and storms out of the room with a, “Oh for Chrissakes, isn’t anyone in charge around here?!”
And that’s what it feels like in A Quiet Place, and how the children are coddled by their parents.
To keep their kids safe, alive and to have them honor the dire stakes at hand – these parents should practically resort to child abuse in order to pound the severity of the situation into their heads. The aforementioned prologue shows how terrible these two parents are. Perhaps they weren’t survivalists with military backgrounds. And so their mistakes may seem acceptable, as this disaster is only 89 days in. But when the film flashes forward to 480+ days, and they’re still making stupid mistakes? No. Doesn’t add up.
The son is afraid to help out with everyday things. At one point, the daughter storms off in a huff. I’m sorry, but if this were my family in a post-apocalyptic scenario – there would be none of this whiny-ness and certainly none of this childhood stubbornness. You do it my way, or we’re all dead.
Other just plain odd (if not stupid) things we’re supposed to ignore – the water pouring into the basement, which creates quite a big problem – wouldn’t Lee have noticed this and helped to avoid the subsequent dangerous situation? And all of the many safety things set-up on the family’s property – why do the kids have knowledge of some, but not of others? And why would any research being undertaken by Lee be “off-limits” to the kids. Wouldn’t they ultimately be safer, having all of the facts at their disposal? It’s all so non-sensical.
And the kids are being taught math. Wouldn’t there be far more focus on survival techniques such as scouting for food or something more worthwhile?
Honestly, Lee and Evelyn Abbott really suck as parents.
As you’d expect from such a set-up, the characters are not the least bit proactive. They’re only reacting to this terrible situation. But that doesn’t do much to drum up audience excitement – as every single danger/obstacle they come up against – is as plain as day to viewers as a scare/suspense set-up. It quickly grows tiresome.
I saw this film quite late in the game, but managed to avoid pretty much every potential spoiler. But I couldn’t escape the hype and the overwhelming sense that this was going to be a deep exercise in abject terror (it was not).
What I could not have foreseen, was that the piece would be so pedestrian, so poorly written and so absolutely paint-by-numbers.
A Quiet Place has done quite well for itself with impressive box office numbers. And I can’t be angry, as this cash-flow only serves to get horror/genre films the face-time they deserve. But frankly, I can’t understand the almost universal love for the picture.
Simply, it’s not a smart film. And despite good production values and decent performances, it’s not at all a good film. It’s an easy verdict of 2 out of 5 possible stars.
A Quiet Place is still playing in theatres nationwide. See it if you need to stay current on “the next big thing”, but if you want intelligence and originality – look elsewhere.
Visit author Michael Klug’s website here