A Quiet Place is that rare modern Hollywood horror film which manages to, either by accident or by clever design, promote strong family values, tradition, and masculine ingenuity almost unapologetically.
Ostensibly a silent film, A Quiet Place tells the story of one of the last remaining families in a town ravaged by blind monsters who hunt using sound-sensitive organs built into their armored heads.
If the premise is easy to swallow, the teaser scene before the credits is even easier to relate to. The family, out on a scavenging expedition to the local supermarket is confronted with one of the most common problems families face in such circumstances: The little boy wants a toy.
Only the stakes here are much, much higher. The toy space shuttle he picks up is the battery operated kind that makes a lot of noise. If he presses the button, the family dies.
Luckily dad manages to get the shuttle away from his son before disaster strikes and here we begin to see the family dynamic solidify among an amazing strong cast of actors who must emote and tell their story with almost no dialogue between them
Writer/actor/director John Krasinski sells this moment with his son, both sternly admonishing the child for nearly getting the family killed and showing warmth and understanding while curbing the child’s disappointment before the family sets off back home.
Tragically, the boy’s older sister Regan, played by Millicent Simmonds, gives him back the toy in secret when they’re left alone in the store leading to his death a few minutes later and setting the stakes for who lives and who dies in this tense and action packed thriller as high as they come.
What follows is a tightly paced 90 minute tour de force of clever ingenuity and monster mayhem as we live several days in the life of a family that cannot make any sound, lest they be savagely eaten by monsters always lurking just out of sight.
Our story picks back up at some point in the future with mom Evelyn (Emily Blunt, Krasinski’s real life wife) in the final stages of pregnancy. It’s during this time that we learn that Rean is deaf and the whole family knows sign language, probably their reason for surviving the monster apocalypse in the first place.
We learn their routine which includes laying down powder on all of their foot paths and traveling barefoot so as to not make any sound, communicating danger by way of changing the lighting in and around the house to red to alert other family members of the presence of a monster, and the addition of a sound-proof basement designed for mom Evelyn to give birth to the new baby.
Where A Quiet Place holds most of its appeal for me, personally, is in its emphasis on the traditional family dynamic, as rare in modern Hollywood as the silent films it pays respect to. Dad is not absent, dead nor a buffoon here. He is not a flawed villain. He is crafty, protective, compassionate, a true patriarch in a world of “toxic masculinity.”
In fact, other than a few logistical issues I had with the film (such as why the creatures stick around a vast, rural area after they’ve already eaten all but seemingly 6 people) my only complaints come in the third act of the film where we see all the common trappings of Hollywood come into play.
It’s here that we see Regan’s new hearing aid turn out to be the one weakness that will stop the monsters. Of course it is. It wouldn’t be modern Hollywood if the STRONG FEMALES didn’t take up masculine roles and discard their feminine strengths in order to thwart the evil.
Dad’s ultimate sacrifice to save his children falls flat for me, but that’s just a personal preference. I was rooting for him to live the whole time. Sacrifice is part of the hero’s journey, and while I thought little Beau’s sacrifice at the beginning of the film was more than enough, I understand the need to make the stakes and the loss even stronger at the end of the film in order to satisfy mainstream audiences.
In the end, while A Quiet Place is a masterfully told horror film with amazing acting and very cool monsters, I have to take several points off for know-towing to modern feminist pop culture and ultimately ruining what up to that point had been a fantastic send-up to traditional family life. A Quiet Place gets a strong 3 out of 5 strangeheads from me. It’s a great horror flick to enjoy with the family if you’ve got kids old enough to handle suspense, gore and monster mayhem.