In backwoods New York, no one can hear you scream

How “A Quiet Place” perfectly captured the sound of terror


Paramount Pictures

In “A Quiet Place” the Abbotts are forced to remain completely silent. Even the slightest noise could result in immediate death. This inherent fear of noise results in an unnerving and tense environment, creating the perfect horror film.

Brock Spence, Staff Writer

Four score and seven years ago, when I sat on my couch watching reruns of “The Office” each day at 4 p.m. on TBS, I had no idea that John Krasinski, portraying Jim Halpert, would deliver one of the scariest (and most moving) horror films of the twenty-first century — but it happened and I am more than grateful.

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A Quiet Place” is not Krasinski’s first venture behind the camera, not even the second. In 2009 Krasinski made his directorial debut in “Brief Interviews with Hideous Men.” The film received a 41% on Rotten Tomatoes, and little critical praise or attention. Krasinski followed up his first attempt in 2016 with “The Hollars,” which fared better with audience members but received no praise from critics. After straying from the comedy genre Krasinski has more than surpassed his previous cinematic flops with his masterpiece, “A Quiet Place.”

Krasinski’s “A Quiet Place” is Paramount’s latest non-franchise debut starring Krasinski himself as well as his wife Emily Blunt as the parents of a post-apocalyptic family trying to survive the apparent invasion of a trio of killer aliens. The premise certainly sounds B-Movie. The execution is far from.

As of late, the horror genre has been saturated with half-thought sequels and unnecessary reboots, a trend which is beginning to discredit the genre as a whole and steer studios to instead produce meaningless action films (à la “Rampage”). Thankfully, from the depths of up-and-coming geniuses such as Jordan Peele and now John Krasinski, the genre is being salvaged one film at a time.

One might wonder how on Earth (pun intended) a film about killer aliens is the “saving grace” of the horror genre, after all, Ridley Scott kind of already did that three decades ago with “Alien.” But Krasinski, who directed, co-wrote, and starred in “A Quiet Place,” delivered a film with depth that reaches well beyond its grotesque villain. “A Quiet Place” is not a film that relies on gore, rather it focuses on creating likable characters and a tense atmosphere that serve as the catalyst for the fear experienced while viewing.

The catch of “A Quiet Place” is not simply killer aliens, rather blind aliens with heightened hearing. Due to their hearing, Lee Abbott (John Krasinski) and his family are forced to remain silent in order to survive. The family walks around barefoot, and paint marks various areas of the home where one can walk whilst producing minimal noise. Lee and his wife Evelyn (Emily Blunt) have three children, Regan (Millicent Simmonds), Marcus (Noah Jupe) and Beau (Cade Woodward). Reagan was born deaf and because of this, the family has learned how to speak using a sign language through which majority of the film’s dialogue is carried out.

The sound mechanics are what make the film most terrifying. At times I found myself trying to be as quiet possible throughout the film, just in case an alien came tearing through the screen. While Krasinski masters the art of silence he also uses sound in the same manner. I found that any sound at all, such as the slightest creak of wood, was just as unnerving as the apparent lack of sound in the film. These mechanics created a tense viewing experience unparalleled by any recent horror film. That being said I highly recommend seeing the movie either in theatres or with a surround sound system in order to fully immerse yourself in the film’s masterful sound design.

While the silence of the film was definitely awesome, it created a large hurdle for the writers — how do you develop characters when almost all dialogue has to be conveyed through sign language (with the aid of subtitles)? Krasinski and his team of writers manage to more than surpass said hurdle in their crafty use of powerful dialogue, no sign goes to waste in the film and in doing so “A Quiet Place” not only manages to spook but also compels emotions. At one point in the final act of the film, I did find myself with watery eyes following a truly powerful moment spoken entirely through sign language.

Jonny Cournoyer / Paramount Pictures
Actress Millicent Simmonds, who plays Regan Simmonds, is deaf like her character. Simmonds’ portrayal of Regan is a huge step for the deaf community which has received little representation in the film industry. In addition to deaf representation, much of the dialogue in the film is passed through sign language.

Horror is not a genre known for diversity, for years the genre has been plagued with racial tropes that have been spoofed in many spin-offs. Recent films such as “Get Out” and “A Quiet Place” aim to curb this trend through increased representation in casts. “A Quiet Place” did so in the casting of Millicent Simmonds to play Reagan, an actor whom, like Regan, is deaf. This decision is a huge victory for the deaf community which has seen little representation in recent films. The deaf community was more than represented in “A Quiet Place” as Regan’s deafness made her more apt to survive in a world dependent on silent communication such as sign language.

In addition to breaking barriers in diversity the cast of “A Quiet Place” also made the film extremely believable. For example, John Krasinski and Emily Blunt who play Lee and Evelyn Abbott are actually married as well as parents, giving their performance a depth that would be difficult to achieve with a standard one-size-fits-all casting approach. Casting Simmonds to play Regan adds depth to the film due to Simmonds actually being deaf. Rarely do producers ever elect to actually cast an actor who shares a disability with their character. Hopefully, Simmonds’ stellar performance will motivate directors to replicate the casting standards set by “A Quiet Place” in the future.  

The film lasts only 90 minutes, which is extremely unusual as most films now last at least two hours. The length does not impair the film in any way as it ends in a largely conclusive manner without feeling drawn out or overdone as several movies do today. After watching I truly felt as though the people involved in the making of “A Quiet Place” genuinely wanted to deliver a good movie, rather than steal from my wallet.

As a horror film, “A Quiet Place” achieves its goal. The film reached a level of tension matched by few and managed to uphold said tension throughout the film. At times I felt uneasy watching, not due to gore or cheap jump scares, rather pure, genuine, horror. Even the bravest of moviegoers will find themselves tempted to hide behind their seats.

“A Quiet Place” exceeds the bar set by its’ predecessors in the genre in every way. Its’ diverse and compelling cast manage to carry the film all the way to the conclusion. I felt terrified, but at the same time, I was also emotionally moved by the power of family in the face of adversity.