A Quiet Place is so effective in its conceit -- make a sound, a lightning-quick monster will hunt you down and gobble you up -- it reduces our theatre to silence. If you muster the courage to watch this flick, you'll see one of the most innovative, terrifying jump-scare horrors in recent memory.
Guided by a small cast that includes John Krasinksi -- who impressively directs and writes -- Emily Blunt, Millicent Simmonds, Noah Jupe and Cade Woodward, we follow the Abbott family and their struggle to survive in a post-monster-invaded world. With all the film's foraging in abandoned supermarkets and trekking through forests, it's a little bit The Walking Dead. Except instead of slow-moving zombies, there are a handful of ruthless, Demogorgon-esque monsters with extremely good hearing.
Michael Bay is a producer, but don't expect big explosions. Silence and sound design drive this script. Krasinski's writing partners Bryan Woods and Scott Beck (Nightlight) have developed believable characters, including Krasinski's buff action hero Lee, a stoically bearded family man totally unlike the actor's iconic straight man Jim from The Office.
A Quiet Place is about the decisions the Abbott family makes, rather than external events like where the monsters came from. In a world where one has to be on constant alert, young children are going to be a handful to deal with, and their choices cause heartbreak and disaster.
One wrong move, we learn very early on, can lead swiftly to catastrophe, and these high stakes generate theatre-silencing tension. Non-horror fans might be drawn to the "horror with heart" aspect and the human concerns of genre siblings Get Out and The Babadook. The relationship between Lee and young daughter Regan (Simmonds) evolves and will likely touch thoughtful viewers out for more than just a scare.
Likeable characters, especially Blunt's pregnant Evelyn, pull the heartstrings, and her scenes are the most memorable -- two words: "bathtub" and "shotgun." The vulnerability in her tear-filled eyes is a masterclass performance in conveying fear while suppressing voice.
Simmonds is the breakout star as unlikely heroine Regan, a deaf character who communicates in sign language. For obvious reasons sign language gives the Abbotts an edge, and even Regan's hearing aid is creatively tapped in a way that helps her family survive. There's a reason we're following them and not some other chumps.
Like his mother, Marcus -- played by a soulful Jupe -- appears vulnerable. Father and son share a bonding moment that sets up another aspect of survival using sound. But the emotional payoff is subtle, and Marcus isn't the plucky Stranger Things-type boy hero (see It as well).
That changeup, though, is what makes A Quiet Place a unique family-oriented horror. The key is in the absence of the creatures until the tension bursts in a final standoff. Emotional moments both scary and uplifting hit their marks and will leave you satisfied and wanting more.
A survival-thriller with non-gore horror, A Quiet Place is clever enough filmmaking to entice those not normally willing to give horror a try. If you are one of those of nervous disposition, bring a loved one. You'll be right in the spirit of the movie.
A Quiet Place tiptoes into theatres in Australia and the UK on April 5 and into US theatres April 6.
'Alexa, be more human': Inside Amazon's effort to make its voice assistant smarter, chattier and more like you.
Rebooting the Reef: CNET dives deep into how tech can help save Australia's Great Barrier Reef.