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With: Emily Blunt, John Krasinski, Millicent Simmonds, Noah Jupe
Written by: Bryan Woods, Scott Beck, John Krasinski
Directed by: John Krasinski
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for terror and some bloody images
Running Time: 90
Date: 04/06/2018

A Quiet Place (2018)

3 1/2 Stars (out of 4)

Dead Silence

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

As with Jordan Peele's Get Out last year, the new A Quiet Place is a horror movie made by someone — John Krasinski (The Office) — primarily known for comedic work.

It makes sense. Comedians understand that both horror and comedy are "body" genres, in that they both elicit a physical response from an audience (e.g. laughter and fear).

Opening Friday in Bay Area theaters, A Quiet Place certainly elicits its share of physical response.

It differs from Get Out in that it's based less on ideas or beliefs and more primal, about the simple evolutionary urge to stay alive and protect your kids.

But A Quiet Place is good enough to deserve attention from die-hard horror fans and perhaps even those that only dabble occasionally. It's closer to "clever" than it is "brilliant," and it relies on a few old horror chestnuts, but it's delightfully effective.

The basic idea is that monsters have somehow appeared. Their origin is thankfully left unexplained, but they are drawn to sound and attack whatever they hear. A howl of rage or frustration can end a life.

One family has managed to stay alive by being silent. They are Lee Abbott (Krasinski), his wife Evelyn (Emily Blunt, married to Krasinski, with two kids, in real life), their eldest daughter Regan (Millicent Simmonds), son Marcus (Noah Jupe).

Their advantage is that, because Regan is deaf, the family knows American Sign Language.

Incidentally, the remarkable Ms. Simmonds is deaf in real life (she also appeared last year in Todd Haynes' underrated Wonderstruck). Whenever A Quiet Place shows her point of view, the soundtrack is completely silent, an especially eerie effect when the monsters creep around behind her.

Well over a year into this new monster-ridden world, the family has a good setup. They have food stored, a surveillance system and warning lights. There is even a Monopoly game with soft pieces so that they don't "thunk" on the board during a turn.

Fortunately, or unfortunately, Evelyn is pregnant. Consider the howling pain of childbirth, as well as a crying baby, and this simple, basic part of life suddenly turns deadly.

That's it. With the exception of a few rather ordinary jump-scares and one or two other horror movie staples, the movie is precision itself. Even the ending is compact and bracing.

A Quiet Place sometimes lulls into a state of relaxation with the sheer beauty of the quiet. A sudden sound can cause a jump, but it can also cause dread and cold sweat, waiting to see if — or when — an attack will come.

Picture the classic scenes of Ripley tiptoeing through a nest of alien eggs in Aliens or Tippi Hedrin and Rod Taylor slowly creeping through a flock of resting birds in The Birds, no one daring to make a sound or even breathe. Krasinski has stretched moments like this to an entire movie.

Happily, Krasinski breaks up the tension beautifully, with scenes like the one in which he takes his son to a waterfall, which is noisy enough that they can talk and even shout without the creatures hearing.

And a glorious fireworks show is used to distract the monsters from a more vulnerable target, while Marco Beltrami's skillful, terrifying music score grows and grows as the threat increases.

It's one thing to stumble upon an idea so straightforward and pure — such as another terrific horror movie from a couple of years back, Lights Out — that it's a wonder how it has never been used before.

But it's yet another thing to execute it so impeccably so as to have not wasted it. A Quiet Place is a good example of that. It's so savagely satisfying that it may leave viewers speechless.

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