(This review may contain spoilers)
In rural America, the Abbott family try to survive in the aftermath of an invasion by strange creatures that hunt by sound. If you make a sound, they hear you and they hunt you with an incredible strength and speed. Survival is not easy. With one deaf child struggling, and another child on the way, is silence really possible? Can they survive?
It’s an incredible idea for a film, and with Emily Blunt and John Krasinski in the lead roles as the parents of the family, it seems like a sure fire winner. But sadly, it doesn’t deliver.
The film suffers from a few key problems of which horror films are prone, but the key issue is that it’s fairly slow and lurches from one situation to another, as though you’re watching a list of situations that someone has come up with in a room, as opposed to a logical plot points or events based around well realised character motivations. This means that the characters in the film do things that no one would do in real life in order to get to the next scene, the next scary situation. And it’s really annoying. The situations often feel quite contrived because of this, take for example the children who fall into the grain silo and start to sink, but the creature that falls in after them does not. The creature then breaks out of the metal walls of the grain silo, but can’t manage later to get to characters taking shelter in a car. The film is full of things like this, and with it’s lack of a sense of urgency, it makes the film a bit dull.
It’s also riddled with cheap jump scares.
There are two further points that I think need to be made in this vein. Firstly, that the weakness of the creatures that stalk them is introduced fairly early on, and repeatedly shown to us, but the characters can’t figure it out, for no reason real reason other than that if they figured it out the film would only be about 40 minutes long. And secondly, when the mother gives birth there is no recourse to reality. She has no contractions or anything, her water just breaks, and then she manages to deliver the child herself, with a minimum of mess or fuss in what seems to be about 20 minutes, without anaesthetic. Later that day, with no sleep, she manages to be up and walking around with a shot gun. If you think about it too hard, you could find this offensive. When I watched the film, it made me laugh.
OK, so the film has some pretty big flaws, and that’s disappointing when it’s a film starring two leads who I think are wonderful to watch. Well, you know what? In all fairness, they are fun to watch here too. For it’s all it’s structural flaws, this film has some redeeming features. And the performances are one of them. Not just the parents, played by Blunt and Krasinski, but also their children, who give very nuanced and realistic portrayals of children living a strange, dangerous life and struggling to come to terms with it. My favourite character was Regan, played by Millicent Simmonds, who plays a deaf teen, and manages to express toughness and vulnerability, as well as being interesting for hearing nothing while the creatures hear everything. A nice little touch.
The creatures themselves are pretty cool. They’re quite ugly and creepy looking, but are not shown in their entirety too soon, which I liked. They’re repulsive enough to be really creepy, and they’re both fast and strong, and make for interesting watching. There are some moments where they don’t entirely make sense, as mentioned above, for example, or when they make a lot of noise moving around but then randomly appear silently behind a character. But on the whole, they’re a well realised concept, and a great idea to make a film about.
Finally, even though the film is a bit slow, it’s quite beautiful. With it’s rural setting, the farm is often beautifully lit, and the characters forage for food in beautiful woods, by running streams, or wander through the grounds of their farm. It’s a very pretty film. Even the interiors have a rustic charm, with lots of thought going into the creation of a world which people must gather and collect things against a time where things will run out. (Of course, I did often wonder about the wisdom of trying to be silent in a house filled with clutter, but it felt like a well realised world). It’s also a film that uses it’s sound design so well. The characters must be silent, or almost silent, in order not to attract the attention of the monsters, so often we’re brought into that sense of silence through the use of natural sounds, heightened sounds, silence, and in the case of the deaf child, the numbness of what she hears, which is next to nothing. In contrast, the sounds that do go off, either by accident or design, feel so much louder and startling. It’s a really remarkable and clever use of sound in a film about silence. Really nicely done.
On the whole, this is a film with great performances and set around a great premise, creatures that will hunt and kill you if they hear you, and yet it’s so poorly realised that it feels slow and often rather stupid at times. It has it’s redeeming qualities, but not enough to save the film.
A Quiet Place is out in cinemas now!