Film Review: A Quiet Place

I don’t watch many horror films. It’s a genre that has never really appealed to me because I find it’s often too polarised in its construction to be really entertaining. Films seem to forget the need for a plot and become dominated by the single idea of trying to scare you. Boringly plodding along, hanging everything on either the monotony of “quiet, quiet, BANG” suspense or shockingly repulsive over the top gore. Both of which cause me to mentally withdraw.

What does work for me, however, is tension. I like horror when it doesn’t conform. When it builds and builds and builds, driving you to the edge of your seat because you can’t face the thought of what may happen next. Get rid of the gore, get rid of the clichéd scare tactics, and play with the unknown. Build emotional naivety into a twisting, real story and you can easily keep me awake at night. It’s just that too few films have the courage to stick with it and not shout “BANG” just as I’m beginning to panic.

A Quiet Place, however, looked like it might just stay quiet. That it might breathe life into a stale genre and create a film that is nail-bitingly scary. But it doesn’t; and if anything, in attempting to be fresh and different, by playing with the sound of silence, it’s ‘hoisted its own petard’ and created its own downfall.

There can be no question, playing with the soundscape, removing vast amounts of spoken dialogue until everything is nothing but a whispered silence, does build tension, but it also draws out pace. Initially, the film got under my skin: the slow, panicked creak of a floorboard followed by the precise, forced withdrawal of a foot, set my heart racing. But it only worked in small doses. I could only sit on the edge of my seat, silently watching the actions of the characters, for so long before my mind craves sound, or speed. This wasn’t helped by the fact that people trying to stay quiet, trying to survive, are forced to live boring lives. The fact that nothing exciting happens for so long, meant I quickly lost interest. It spent too long monotonously trying to show the strain and strife a noiseless world would require to keep me interested. If I’m honest, after about an hour, I could have happily walked out.

I think the film is aware of this fundamental issue though. I think it knows, deep down, that it’s very clever idea is not enough to carry it through. The silence will have to be broken. But when it finally decides it has no other option, that it has to inject pace and excitement into a film that’s become dull and bogged down, it returns to the tried and tested cliché of “Quiet, Quiet, BANG” horror. Already bored I never stood a chance. I never got back into it. The increase in pace meant I found some enjoyment in the later stages, but any sense of tension, or panic, was gone. It was nothing more now than a traditional, mainstream, Hollywood horror.

The biggest issue for me though is that the entire story, the characters, their lives and the world they inhabit, just makes no sense. Too many questions are asked and then never answered. Too much is set up and telegraphed for use later. My mind, once detached from the silence on screen, was wandering through every issue it could find. I was almost amused at the greater and greater flaws I could find unanswered in the story. I really don’t want to spoil it by listing them, so contact me if you fancy a discussion.

For every bad point I found in A Quiet Place, I will say that Emily Blunt and John Krasinski deserve credit. They lead the line with a quality that forces you to truly believe the fear in their eyes. Their realism easily stands out as the best thing in the film. Millicent Simmonds and Noah Jupe, as their children, don’t reach quite the same level but, when alone on screen, can make the tone of the film shift, and whether by design on not, their frustrating and rough pre-pubescence ignorance makes you want to scream at them to stop what they’re doing.

So, it’s not all bad, it’s just that too much is too boring, and most of the rest is too questionable, to support the few moments of real, suspense-driven, terror the film manages to create.

There is one caveat to all of this though: I saw A Quiet Place in the cinema. A few rows in front of me a man munched on popcorn, whilst a few rows behind a pair of women whispered throughout. I can normally accept a bit of “Big Screen Noise” but this film can’t. It can’t drown it out, it needs complete silence and it wasn’t given it. I truly believe if you watch this in a dark room, alone and in total silence, it may be a much scarier proposition.

But I doubt it.

6 out of 10 stars (6 / 10)

Posted on by 5WC in Film First Edition

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