The joy (and terror) of silence
Moving Brand’s resident Senior Producer and film buff, Simon Sanderson, reviews John Krasinski’s hushed horror 'A Quiet Place'.
With only his second feature John Krasinski has bolted (silently) forwards in directorial prowess, with the speed and dexterity of his genuinely frightening creatures.
In the empty world of ‘A Quiet Place' there are monsters everywhere. If you make a sound they will find you and eat you. An elevator pitch almost as succinct as ‘Jaws in Space’ was for ‘Alien’.
This is a carefully shot film (DOP Charlotte Bruus Christensen chose film over digital and the 35mm print bristles with simple richness). The B-movie premise is very interesting (a mishmash of ‘Signs’, ‘Don’t Breathe’, & ’10 Cloverfield Place’’). The actors shine throughout and behave believably.
But it’s the film’s mesmerising sound design and restrained score by Marco Beltrami that makes it truly impressive. The soundscape and the cementing of elements spatially within what is ultimately a flat screen is deftly accomplished. The creatures exist tangibly in 3D space - you invest in them completely because of their careful audio grounding within the environment of a scene.
Even with this technical care it is still a wonderfully ‘hey date grab my arm from the shock’ experience. But the jumps are in no way cheap. The utter sparsity of sound means that you aren’t reacting to a poorly executed violin shriek crowbarred in to elicit a jolt — but instead the sound of something where there was previously nothing. The careful use of close-ups means that the quietest of moments can be deafening when placed under scrutiny.
The silence also allows simple moments to shine that rack the tension effectively - there is perhaps one of the most painful telegraphing moments in the history of film, involving just a step and a bag of laundry.
How do the monsters hold-up in this age of impatient visual gratification you might ask? Well by and large the VFX is wonderfully sublime — with only a couple of slightly suspect moments at the end. Like the film it references (‘Jaws’) this falls into the trap of showing the monsters in their entirety for the denouement. It didn’t work 43 years ago on a sinking boat with a rubber Carcharadon carcharias and still doesn’t.
In the case of, 'Believe nothing you hear, and only one half that you see.' Edgar Allen Poe in this instance may well have been proven wrong.
If you do go, please pick a cinema that will work to it. Small and intimate. For once you might well find yourself using your hands to cover your ears, instead of your eyes.
A Quiet Place is currently on global theatrical release, under Paramount Pictures.