A Review of A Quiet Place (SXSW 2018)
by Philip J. Hohle, Ph.D.
No doubt. A Quiet Place is well written and acted—and directed. No doubt, the movie is a fantastic horror picture filled with plenty of seat-jumping moments. Yet the initial success among the pop-culture horror crowd may overshadow the deeper qualities of the film. Here I will focus on two of them.
The first is a technical one: the sound. Don’t be surprised if Place is nominated for at least one Oscar. If it does not get the recognition for any of its other qualities, it certainly should get—and win—awards for the sound mix. What will be particularly interesting is that many typical nominees have 10-minute car chase scenes or space battles, where the sound designer has a virtually unlimited assortment of sounds they can choose from to send chasing about the surround-scape. Even the title A Quiet Place illustrates the unique challenge for Michael Barosky and his team—most of this film has no dialog. The point is the absence of sound. This is the brilliant twist in this film; as one of the five senses, we rely on sound for so many things in life we may not realize. When speech and expression become restricted, our world changes. Human relationships change. Unless one is completely deaf, one seldom experiences a complete absence of sound, but in this story, sound can be deadly. The smallest noise brings terror. On a less conventional level, we can understand the emptiness or hopelessness of those who cannot, or dare not, speak.
Likewise, on a deeper level, this is a family film—not in the sense that dads and moms should have their little ones see it on family movie night with a bowl of popcorn, but in the sense that the film strongly affirms the bonds that hold a family together in the face of hopeless odds. In spite of the abundance of politically-correct films that play with a reshuffling of gender roles, Director, co-screenwriter, and actor John Krasinski allows the dad character to be a man in the traditional sense. The wife, played with Oscar-like quality by Emily Blunt, tells her husband, “I need you to protect them” (referring to their two kids). Heeding the call, this dad demonstrates heroic fatherhood in numerous and profound ways. Meanwhile, the wife is extraordinarily strong in a maternal way. Without giving away a spoiler, both are heroes.
Without taking away from the quality of the film, the viewer will recognize many of the same plot elements in the Oscar-winning film Signs. While that film was one for the eyes; A Quiet Place is one for the ears.