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Day 89: A family “shops” for necessities in the ruins of a town forgotten by whatever recent apocalypse has befallen mankind. The oldest child, Regan (Millicent Simmonds) is deaf with an hearing aid and forced to communicate via sign language with her mother Evelyn (Emily Blunt) who finds medicine for her sick son Marcus (Noah Jupe) while the youngest son Beau (Cade Woodward) goes looking for toys. Beau is reprimanded when his father Lee (John Krasinski, who also directs and did the rewrites on the script) for choosing a toy that will make too much noise. Later, as they family walks home – barefoot on a trail of sand they’ve created to reach their home in the woods – we find out why noise is such a bad thing and nobody’s speaking out loud: there’s a hideous monster that kills anything that makes noise.
Day 400-something: We pick up with the family still picking up the pieces of the death of the youngest child, but Evelyn is pregnant. The monster we saw before was just one of a litter, so the family prepares for the coming birth: sound proofing a storm shelter. Regan blames herself for her brother’s death, and Lee seems to as well. The family is in shambles. Lee tries to make amends by making a new hearing aid for Reagan, but it doesn’t work (like god knows how many previous attempts he’s made). When going about their chores, the family becomes separated physically as well as emotionally, splitting up and going 3 separate ways… each encountering their own monsters. When Evelyn goes into labor, their path becomes clear: repair their familiar rift to protect one another or all parish!
A Quiet Place is an ambitious new horror flick, originally written by Bryan Woods and Scott Beck (Nightlight, The Bride Wore Blood). I’d read their original screenplay and thought it was fantastic. It broke a lot of conventions of screenwriting including having images in the script and full pages with only a single line of words on them. It broke the rules and was crazily intense with a mix of contained scenes and large set pieces. I thought it was great and so much fun.
Michael Bay (Transformers) picked it up to produce and enticed writer/director/actor John Krasinski (actor – 13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi, The Office; director – The Hollars, Brief Interviews with Hideous Men) to come on not only as the lead but also director, giving him the opportunity to rewrite the script as he saw fit. Kransinski jumped at the chance to have that kind of creative power and proceeded to work the story into what he believed was a more emotional piece to create a horror that matches his indie-drama sensibilities. What we’re left with is his take on Woods/Beck story that, for me, didn’t work nearly as well on the screen.
I felt like Krasinski’s changes upped the emotional connection and intensity with the characters, which is fantastic. We really feel like this is a family in shambles and we see it all play out in the present (unlike the original script that had numerous flashbacks to show the destruction of this familial unit). This was a great choice. But then we lost some of the great set pieces and intense horror scenes in exchange for more dramatic effect. This is where it becomes a matter of taste. If I’m going to a horror, I want something that’s going to scare me and have me on the edge of my seat. That simply never happened with this film the way it did in the original script.
However, I can certainly see why some people might find this movie more enjoyable than I did… you connect with the family right away and relate to them in the way their family splinters and has to come back together again. So while I may not care for some of Krisinski’s story choices, I can understand his rationale behind them and acknowledge why they would work for many movie goers, specifically those who don’t typically enjoy horror films. (FYI: Krisinski actually grew up hating horror movies)
Another change I didn’t agree with was the amount of dialogue there was. I know, that seems weird, but the whole point of this is that it’s supposed to be a silent horror film with the premise of if they talk or make noise, they die! You’d think they’d never speak ever… but instead it was as if Krisinski’s rewrites were just looking for every and any way he could have characters speak. Sometimes they’re just whispering, other times they’re speaking at normal volumes masking their own sound with loud ambient sounds. It felt like a huge cheat to have them talk as often as they do.
The child actors in this film gave surprisingly great performances. It’s often said that indie filmmakers should “never work with children or animals”, but this film is a good example of giving it a try and seeing what works. My hat is off to young Noah Millicent, who’s actually hearing impaired in real life. Krinsinki does a good job in his fatherly role, showing real emotion well with his eyes, though I feel like his beard – while epic – dampened how effective his performance could have been as it hides the majority of his facial muscles. His real-life wife Emily Blunt is… kind of just meh. They could easily have put someone more interesting in the role, but I guess she’s fine as is, other than the pregnancy, her role is actually pretty minor in terms of the emotional story.
I thought the monster was pretty cool. He wasn’t 100% original – sort of a hodgepodge of creatures we’ve seen before, but the way it’s face contorts when it’s listening for its next victim was both grotesque and cool.
When you see A Quiet Place, try not to ruffle your popcorn bag too loudly or you’ll kill the ambience of this film. If I hadn’t read the script last year, I probably would have enjoyed the movie better… so you may love it and be terrified and on edge and think it’s great. Many of the critics I’ve seen do early screenings fit that category. For me, it was just alright and I didn’t like the deviations from the original story. But I can see why those choices were made (whether I agree with them or not) so I’d say that all-in, this is a unique and cool premise that warrants watching. Just be sure to silence your phone; don’t be that guy!