It’s amazing how, in the hands of the right filmmaker, small and quiet can be so much more thrilling and terrifying than big and loud.
“A Quiet Place” is such a tightly-drawn, briskly-plotted little horror movie I half expected Hitchcock to stroll through the background walking a poodle at some point.
The story is relatively straightforward and smartly doesn’t try to overexplain itself.
We find ourselves somewhere in rural America, where hardly anyone is left alive. A family with strong and capable parents (played by real-life couple Emily Blunt and John Krasinski) and a couple of resourceful, brave kids (Noah Jupe and Millicent Simmonds) have managed to survive by staying very, very quiet.
Powerful and deadly creatures (origins unexplained) live in the woods and hunt only by sound with swift efficiency.
The movie draws much of its tension from our threatened family trying to stay silent and does such a good job a dropped plate sounds like a gasoline truck exploding.
“A Quiet Place” was directed by Krasinski (who is still best known as the dry-witted Jim from the TV show “The Office”), whose only other feature, “The Hollars,” was a solid, heartfelt family melodrama.
Apparently, he was working in the wrong genre. Here, he tightens all the requisite screws of a thriller by letting the audience in on impending disaster, slowly revealing the creatures and effectively mixing relentless tension with nice little jump-scares.
But, what elevates this movie from competence to excellence is the acting performances and Krasinski keeping the focus squarely on the family.
The kids are both great, as Jupe, now a seasoned Hollywood veteran after being featured in “Suburbicon” and “Wonder,” is solid as a scared little boy digging deep to find his courage.
Simmonds is arguably the heart of the movie, a defiant teen who is deaf both in the film and in real life, bringing an interesting nuance to this silent world.
In front of the camera, Krasinski exhibits a grim determination who wears his singular focus of keeping his family alive on every corner of his face.
But, it’s Blunt who proves why she is the star she is by commanding the screen every time she is on it. While almost never hearing her voice, she still packs every scene with her terror, gentleness, heartbreak, resourcefulness, and fierceness. It’s quite the performance.
Even the creatures, when fully revealed, deliver the goods. They are the stuff of nightmares.
At a brisk 85-minute run time, “A Quiet Place” doesn’t have an ounce of filler, keeping a white-knuckled grip on you from beginning to end.
This is one of those movies that will leave its mark on the genre for years to come and serves as a masterclass in suspense. You’ll be tiptoeing around your house for a while afterward.
“A Quiet Place” is rated PG-13 for terror and some bloody images.