It’s hard to imagine what a horror movie directed by the beloved Office prankster would be like. Jim Halpert himself, actor/director John Krasinski, admits that he himself isn’t a fan of the genre. But, he says, he was drawn to A Quiet Place because of its family element. A Quiet Place cuts through the noise (literally) and stands apart from other films in the often sensationalized genre of horror with its artistic, visually driven storytelling and by embodying strong themes of self-sacrifice and family values.
A Quiet Place tells the story of a family who must navigate their lives in sign language, tip-toes, and whispers after the arrival of otherworldly creatures that hunt using sound. Unlike many other horror movies, this film doesn’t rely on gore or cheap jump scares to create an effect; instead, A Quiet Place masterfully uses silence as a storytelling device which draws the audience into the action and into the terror. There is very little sound in the movie, and many deliberate scenes in which sound completely cuts out (for example, every time we see the deaf daughter, the filmmakers totally remove sound, allowing us to step into her shoes). This silence makes the few noises heard throughout the film more jarring and the words spoken aloud more poignant. With very little spoken dialogue every eye movement, every forehead wrinkle, every intimate interaction between the characters carried weight. The actors created relatable characters and elicited strong emotions from the viewers despite the characters never actually being named and film being virtually noiseless.
A Quiet Place utilizes a dramatic device often used by writers of horror–the uncanny; the uncanny locates the strangeness in the ordinary. It takes something mundane, something we take for granted, sound, and makes it an object or source of fear. Living in a culture of constant noise desensitizes us to it but immersing us in silence makes look at everyday sounds in a new way. A noise arcs simple and unassuming as a toy rocket, a lamp falling, or a baby cry now has the ability to induce a deep terror in the viewers. It also allowed the filmmakers to illustrate fear becoming power, as the movie ends with a sound any movie watcher would recognize as triumphant.
However, the real brilliance of this film lies not in its directing, the acting, or it’s ability to make you jump but in the depth of it’s story. Ultimately, A Quiet Place is more than a horror movie, it is a family drama. The movie begins with the family experiencing the tragic loss of their youngest son, and it shows the effect this has on the family especially as they prepare for the birth of their newest child. We see the ways in which the family clings to one another as they deal with loss and face a constant danger. The ideas of love and self-sacrifice are pervasive, showing the viewers time and time again that they are necessary for overcoming every evil.
This film artfully does what many other films in the genre do not; it emphasizes the idea of the nuclear family and that these bonds can sustain us even in unthinkable circumstances. It encapsulates the complexity of family life and affirms its value even in a world that seeks to destroy it–and that speaks louder than words.