Wednesday, May 02, 2018

A Quiet Place (2018) Review

As a huge horror fan, a film that I had been excited about seeing for a while was A Quiet Place, and when people I know then started to see it for themselves and said just how incredible the sound design was, I knew it was a film that I had to make sure that I went and saw in cinema; watching it at home just wouldn't have the same effect and I'm so glad I did! 

A Quiet Place follows the Abbott family - 
Evelyn (Emily Blunt), Lee (John Krasinski), Regan (Millicent Simmonds), Marcus (Noah Jupe) and Beau (Cade Woodward), as they attempt to live in a futuristic world that has been overtaken by extraterrestrial creatures. The year is 2020 and these blind entities roam Earth while being extremely susceptible to sound...The slightest noise can draw them in and result in a horrifically gruesome death, in only a matter of minutes. The Abbott family seem to be some of the only remaining survivors in the area and are working together to learn more about the creatures, calculating what could be their weakness. One thing's for sure though, you mustn't make a single sound and so the family have no choice but to live in complete silence. Things are going seemingly well, they've gone undetected, but then Evelyn becomes pregnant and they have to try and discover new ways of making it through, with a crying baby added into the mix...

The film, directed by John Krasinski is 90 anxiety-inducing minutes long, that completely grips you from the opening scene and manages to keep you on the edge of your seat throughout. I went into watching this completely blind, I decided to not even watch the trailer because I love it when a horror film catches you off-guard and you're not wondering in the back of your mind when certain events, might take place. It takes mere seconds before you realise that they're in some sort of post-apocalyptic world, however, I just didn't know  what sort of monster or creature they were trying to avoid, but they don't keep you guessing for too long and within the first five minutes of the film, the rules are quickly established and we see just how dire the consequences of making a slight sound is.

The concept of A Quiet Place is pretty simplistic, but they run with it and take it to the absolute extreme and Krasinski executes it seamlessly and as a result, not only does it make for a fabulous horror film, but it's also some pretty great filmmaking in general. Some people will pigeonhole this film as just being another post-apocalyptic horror/thriller film but it's SO MUCH MORE THAN THAT. When making a film of this genre, a common mistake that is often made is focusing too heavily on the creatures or monsters and not spending enough time on the character development and developing their story, but this film manages to avoid falling into that trap and it made this so much more than just about the monsters lurking in the shadows, it's about a family and their struggle and fight to survive. When I walked into the theatre, I expected to feel the typical emotions I feel when watching a horror film, but I didn't think I'd experience such a huge range of emotions, with such a touching, heartfelt premise that actually had me in tears at one point! 

John Krasinski stated that the close-knit family premise is what initially drew him to the script, not the evident horror themes. He went on to say that he wanted the film to feel really beautiful, almost like a Western film and he took inspiration from the Terrence Malick films such as Days of Heaven (1978) and The Thin Red Line (1998). They decided to shoot on film because this way, it plays with light really well and as it's not so HD, they can play with the shadows and light to create more mystery and tension, to almost make you feel as trapped as the family do.

This is a quiet film, not a silent film, which means that although the dialogue is extremely minimal, the use of sound is incredibly important and almost becomes a main character in itself. A film with an apocalyptic premise that has very little dialogue can be an extremely difficult feat because it's hard to communicate to the audience about what is going on, without being able to say it directly. There are multiple ways a filmmaker could go about this and with A Quiet Place, they use a mixture of sign language, body language and facial expressions to communicate with the audience and the cast really pulled this off amazingly well. If I remember correctly, there are around seven characters in the entire film, four of which are children and everyone's performances were exceptional and so believable. You find yourself liking each one of the characters, very quickly into the film and thus wanting them to beat all of the odds, and survive. Emily Blunt and John Krasinski are of-course married in real life and their chemistry on-screen was outstanding and they worked incredibly well together, portraying the right amount of emotion and vulnerability. 

Millicent Simmonds who plays Regan in the film is actually deaf in real life and Krasinski only wanted someone who was deaf themselves to fill that role, as he felt that they would be able to give a much more honest portrayal, and it's said that Millicent worked with John to develop signing habits and styles that worked and identified with each family member and their character arc and attitude. At certain points in the film, they completely take all the sound out, as a way of portraying her perspective. I also saw this technique in the film Hush (2016) and I really love it and think it works well to create so much more tension for that character because you know how much more vulnerable it can make them, in certain situations. 

Another way of communicating with the audience was the use of the production design and all the little details found in each different set, that shows how the family have adjusted to living in this new world. For example, they live in a simple barn but use hay bales as a makeshift sofa. It's evident that even in the bleak world that they're living in, Lee and Evelyn are trying to make it as homely as possible for the children, giving them the best upbringing as they can. 

They have family photographs hung up, the children are homeschooled, they still have family dinners, but instead of using plates and cutlery, they eat with their hands from lettuce leaves. They are seen playing Monopoly but the game pieces are replaced with pieces of felt and they ensure to roll the dice on a blanket. They do as much as they can to try and reduce the noise levels; they paste newspaper on the walls of the nursey, they put empty egg cartons on the furniture, they leave trails of sand wherever they go and walk barefoot. They also painted the floorboards to notify each other which floorboards creak and which ones don't.

We find out the most information when we see down into the basement and see all of the newspaper clippings, which refer to the creatures as "angels of death". There's also a whiteboard which Lee has written down everything he knows about the creatures, which admittedly, isn't much, but we know that they're blind, they attack sound, have insane armour. There are at least three confirmed in the area...The way to survive is to ensure to obtain medical supplies and to soundproof the house, but one big question remains, what is their weakness? 

"I wanted to break all the rules or the conventions that I had seen in alien movies which is like a speech from the president and people deciding how to survive. There was no deciding, it just happened so fast that you either survived or you didn't. So it puts these people in a really tense place."

Usually, with this type of film, we start from the beginning of it all, when the outbreak initially starts and everyone is still in mass hysteria. We see all the cliche scenes of historical landmarks being destroyed and how the military chose to deal with it and maybe even a public official making a speech, but with this, there is none of that. We start on day 89 and then jump to day 472, where the family already know the deal and have established a new sort of normality. We're not fed tons of scientific information, we just know the same amount as the family do and as a result, we share their tension and anxieties.  

Admittedly, there are some questions left unanswered, like, how do they still have electricity? How does that all work? Some may say a generator, but surely that would create far too much noise. Even playing The Last of Us has taught me that this would definitely not be a good idea at all! And while we're on the topic of games, this definitely was very reminiscent of the game Until Dawn and their monsters "The Wendigos" They catch their prey by movement and they are very rarely seen, until they decide to pounce. 

I feel like some people are nit-picking far too much and I don't really think this is a film that needs to be over analysed too much or it loses its effect, but most of the questions that I had, I found answered online. I know a lot of people are very unhappy that Evelyn finds herself pregnant and how much of a silly idea this is. I understand that, but I think it's pretty evident why she decides to do this and even if the ideas I have of why this happens are wrong, it could have a much more symbolic reason, such as, showing that life goes on and there is hope even in the darkest of times, much like The Walking Dead.

"The idea behind all that is they're definitely aliens and they're an evolutionary perfect machine. So the idea is if they grew up on a planet that had no humans and no light then they don't need eyes, they only hunt by sound. They also develop a way to protect themselves from everything else so that's why they're bulletproof and all these things. I had to make it make sense and I needed the rules of the monster to adhere as tightly to the rules of the family. The family, we had set up all these incredible rules, and I needed the monster to not just be convenient. And the other idea was also the reason why they were able to survive kind of the explosion of their planet and then survive on these meteorites because they've evolved to be bulletproof. Until they open themselves up to be vulnerable, they're completely invulnerable."

And lastly, it wouldn't be a review by me, unless we spoke about the score, would it? Composed by Marco Beltrami, it is something that has completely divided viewers, with some finding it just too over-bearing. I, however, liked it! It's nothing incredible or life-changing and it won't win any awards, but for a horror film, it was actually pretty good and sort of gave me When a Stranger Calls (2006) vibes. I also feel like a special mention is needed for the song "Harvest Moon" by Niel Young, this was specially chosen by Krasinski, as it has a personal significance to him and his wife, Emily. The scene in which this song is played is so lovely and heartfelt and added some much-needed warmth to the film. 

A Quiet Place is incredible and it's probably one of the best horror films I've seen in a long while! I adore the horror genre, but I'm kind of over the ones that aren't really that thought out, and simply just rely on jump scares to be deemed worthy. The story is great and well-paced. The sound design is incredible and definitely deserves all the hype it's receiving! The silence, atmosphere, subtle themes and cinematography create such an immersive experience that I haven't felt from a film in such a long time. It filled me with dread from the very start and made me completely aware and cautious of myself and my surroundings at all times. The girl eating popcorn beside me...Was my breathing too loud? U G H. I felt suffocated and trapped and my heart was in my mouth the entire time. Incredible. Another film that reminds me just how brilliant cinema is! 

I highly recommend you all go and see this, even if horror films aren't usually your thing, this is definitely a good starting point, but make sure you see it in cinema, it won't have the same effect if you watch it at home and please, for the love of god, don't take popcorn in with you. If I can stop snacking for a couple of hours, so can you! Don't be THAT person.

If you've seen this film, I'd love to know your thoughts on it too!

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