In early January, I wrote a tongue-in-cheek List of 9 predicting various things for 2018, including what I felt would be the sleeper hit of the year. I swear, dear reader, that I initially picked A Quiet Place for that honor before I settled on the wackier, as-yet-unreleased The Happytime Murders. Only time will tell how the latter film fares, but less than two weeks into its release, A Quiet Place has indeed proven itself a major sleeper hit.
Here you've got your basic horror/thriller setup: an isolated family must fight off monsters. The spin here is that the monsters – half-humanoid, half-insectoid creatures presumably alien in origin – are blind, but have an extreme sensitivity to sound. If you fart, sneeze, cough or say boo, they will find you and kill you within seconds. Stay quiet as a church mouse and stay alive.
With nearly the rest of the world wiped out within weeks, the Abbotts, a small farming clan in upstate New York, lucked out apparently because their tween daughter (the remarkable Millicent Simmonds) is deaf, so they all speak sign language. A Quiet Place does a nice job of detailing the daily formalities the Abbotts must go through in order to survive this new existence: walking barefoot, lining their outdoor paths with sand, and so on.
In the film's opening scene, set in 2020, the Abbotts' youngest son plays with a noisy toy in the forest, and is sliced up by the monsters before the family's very eyes (but, mercilessly, not the audience's). I guess this trauma is what leads mom and dad (Krasinski and real-life wife Emily Blunt) to decide to reproduce a year later, a phenomenally stupid idea in a world where a crying baby can doom an entire family, but otherwise you've got no story.
Krasinski is a competent director, especially in getting convincing performances from his young actors. (Noah Jupe costars as the surviving son.) He's also capable at staging suspense, so it's a bit annoying that he instead relies heavily on jump scares, punctuating every startling moment with an artificial noise straight out of a horror movie trailer. One could argue that the world of the film, in which every sound is potentially deadly, justifies these tacky "wham!" effects, but for me it's a cheap trick that will ultimately date the movie. A better director would have had a field day toying with sound – and with our expectations.
If you want a serviceable thriller that delivers plenty of jolts, A Quiet Place will satisfy. It clocks in at a zippy 90 minutes – in fact, its story ends where most other films' third acts begin – and it doesn't dally with exposition, aside from a handful of newspaper headlines ("It's Sound!") and a few survival tips that dad's written on a whiteboard. Krasinski and cowriters Scott Beck and Bryan Woods figure there's nothing you need to know beyond the basic premise, and they stick to it.
In the end, the film doesn't really have anything to say, and Krasinski is still squarely in journeyman territory – unlike Jordan Peele and Get Out, he missed a lot of opportunities to play with genre and get inventive. I wished A Quiet Place could have given me something more than an hour and a half of scares, but it's a solid, well-made B-movie, and maybe that's all Krasinski had in mind.