The horror genre is one that I feel often struggles to bring something new to the table. Everything’s either been done, copied or in some cases, even revived before.
Which is why I was so intrigued, if a little sceptical, to hear about a new horror film that was supposedly doing something totally original, as well as earning rave reviews left, right and centre.
A Quiet Place tells the story of a family in the wilds of America, struggling for survival in a world that has been devastated by a plague of deadly creatures with a keen sense of hearing – but are totally blind. As such, the family go about their daily lives making as little sound as possible.
Seeing the family live out the practicalities of this lifestyle is itself one of the most creative and interesting parts of the film. We see them communicate with sign language, walk barefoot on pathways covered in sand and even swap the trademark terrier and top hat for woollen tokens in a game of Monopoly.
As you might expect, the use of dialogue in A Quiet Place is minimal, at best. You could probably count the number of spoken lines in its entire 90-minute runtime on two hands. The film therefore relies heavily on gesture, facial displays and placement of objects, and delivers a masterclass in speechless storytelling.
I get the sense that these mediums of communication are chosen more readily than sign language, and it works incredibly well. The cast delivers strong performances all round and a captivating display of physical acting. It’s Emily Blunt who delivers a standout performance though, as well as the most nerve-shredding scene in the film, as she’s stalked through the family home by one of the creatures.
The lack of dialogue puts extra pressure on the soundtrack, and it’s beautifully scored by Marco Beltrami. Throughout the film, the music adds majesty to the untamed countryside one moment, while causing you to shrink into your seat in terror the next, as the creatures arrive to torment the family.
As much as I enjoyed A Quiet Place though, it does fall into some of the rhythms that have previously left me cold in other horror films. For such an intelligent film, it relies too readily on jump scares in scenes where the terror of the scenario itself is genuinely enough to deliver the required tension. Likewise, once fully revealed, the creatures themselves lose some of their menace.
I was also quite surprised by the ending. I question the decision to end a film which, for its first 90-minutes had been a small-scale, taught and – at times – genuinely terrifying story of family desperately trying to survive, on a note that was more reminiscent of a Hollywood alien invasion shoot-‘em-up. It by no means ruins the film though, and sets A Quiet Place up nicely for a well-earned sequel.
Verdict: A tense and satisfying thriller, A Quiet Place delivers plenty of well-crafted scares and is one the strongest horror offerings in recent years.