MOVIE REVIEW: Silence proves terrifying in alien thriller
A QUIET PLACE (M)
Director: John Krasinski
Starring: John Krasinski, Emily Blunt, Millicent Simmonds
Running time: 90 minutes
Rating: Four stars (out of five)
Verdict: Silent terror
A Quiet Place is not popcorn horror. Seriously. Snacks should be banned from this nerve-jangling twist on an alien apocalypse in which barely a line of dialogue is spoken.
For a good part of the film's 90-minute duration, the cinema is deathly silent - and I use the descriptive adjective advisedly.
Even throat-clearing is audible.
Each time my next-door neighbour scrambled around in his popcorn tub to grab another handful, I wanted to scream: "THEY CAN HEAR YOU!"
And actor-turned-director John Krasinski's riveting thriller needs no added tension.
A Quiet Place is based on the simple but, as it turns out, disturbingly evocative premise that earth has been invaded by swarms of extraterrestrial creatures that can't see, but compensate with extraordinarily sensitive hearing (a bit like dogs in the higher sound frequencies, but thankfully without a canine's heightened sense of smell.)
"If they can hear you, they hunt you."
These dumb, blind, primitive monsters are born deep in the collective unconscious.
Krasinski uses their B-movie heritage with A-grade flair.
A Quiet Place tells the story of a family under siege.
Evelyn and Lee Abbott (played by Krasinski and real-life wife Emily Blunt) live in complete silence in a modified country shed with their two children - Regan (Millicent Simmonds) and Marcus (Noah Jupe).
It's a survivalist's existence - equal parts love, industry and fear.
Sand-covered paths deaden their steps through the autumn leaves. Painted footprints help them to avoid creaky floorboards.
The Abbotts communicate in sign language - a skill they already possess thanks to Regan, who has a malfunctioning cochlear implant.
Her deafness in a world in which sound is paramount is a clever plot device that pays off on a multitude of levels. As does the elemental nature of parental anxiety.
Krasinski lays out the stakes in the opening sequence.
It's Day 89 since the world, as the Abbotts knew it, ended.
The family has gone on a scavenging expedition to the local supermarket where their youngest son spies a battery-driven toy plane.
Tragedy is averted - but not for long. The whole family watches in horror as their most vulnerable member is disembowelled.
The story then flashes forward to Day 472.
Evelyn is pregnant - a natural, even hopeful eventuality that throws up a whole new raft of problems to be solved as well as a thrilling array of dramatic possibilities.
Believe it or not, these don't culminate with the birth sequence - during which Evelyn is stalked by one of the monsters.
As the suspense mounts and the situation escalates - there's a terrific scene involving a grain silo - the extraordinarily resourceful Abbotts must use every advantage they have to survive.
In the crash-bang-pow Dolby ATMOS environment of mainstream entertainment, A Quiet Place takes the less-is-more approach to inspired extremes.
Our auditory deprivation is alleviated only by the occasional reprieve - a silent disco, a crashing waterfall.
Krasinski directs with the precision of a master craftsman - there are flaws in the logic of the world he and co-writers Scott Beck and Bryan Woods have created, but they barely register. And the film's ending is an absolute cracker.
A Quiet Place opens on Thursday.