Horror is a strange and sometimes frustrating genre of film. It’s probably the hardest to get right, since, if the story and characters aren’t believable, then it’s hard to get fully immersed in the atmosphere and be scared by the events happening on screen. Bad horror movies are a nitpicker’s dream, and a lot of people find joy in pointing out the characters’ stupid decisions and detailing how illogical the film’s scenarios are, particularly with friends. When horror films work, on the other hand, they can reveal humanity’s hidden or repressed anxieties to the viewer better than any other genre can, keeping viewers up late at night as they hope to never experience what the characters just did. Hence, whenever I hear about an upcoming, well-advertised horror movie, I tend to get excited, even if it doesn’t seem like a deep or complicated experience – sometimes, just being scared is enough for me. This is how I felt watching the trailer for A Quiet Place. Ultimately, the film somewhat lived up to the trailer, though I believe the sum of its parts was much greater than the whole.
For context, A Quiet Place is set in world where aliens who are very sensitive to sound have invaded Earth. As a result, the surviving humans have to stay as silent as possible. The film focuses on a rural American family’s experiences living in this world, and the measures they take to remain quiet in their everyday lives. Specific scenes of A Quiet Place are quite phenomenal, making fantastic use of music, cinematography, and silent acting to further emphasize the tension of the situation. Every loud noise made in the film immediately dials up the tension, and while I wasn’t necessarily scared all the time, I was anxiously eating my popcorn and hoping the characters survive throughout the majority of the film. It helps that the monsters themselves are brought to life with great special effects and fantastic designs. I really liked how there was close to no spoken dialogue beyond American Sign Language, so the only means of endearing the audience to the characters is through facial expressions and actions, which the actors did fairly well. While specific characteristics are not portrayed, and individual names are rarely featured, I got a sense that they are a real family that’s desperately trying to survive an impossible situation, and I felt for them as a result.
Where the film falls short, in spite of its many good elements, is the actual world building and story. While the characters do make reasonable decisions most of the time, the times they don’t are very distracting and odd. I don’t want to spoil anything, but if you think about a few of the plot points in the film for too long, you start asking way too many questions, and then your overall enjoyment of the film becomes hampered. It becomes frustrating when you realize a few of these issues could have been resolved a simple shifting of dates. Without spoilers, the film begins 89 days into the invasion, and then there’s a time skip to around 480 days into the invasion. If the film had begun more like 30-40 days into the invasion, and then skipped to around 200 days, quite a few plot points would be stronger and make more sense. If this observation is confusing, my advice would be to watch the movie and then do the math. The film also runs for a bit too long, and it feels like there are three climaxes that aren’t stitched together enough to be considered a cohesive whole. It isn’t Lord of the Rings: Return of the King bad, but it’s noticeable. Additionally, the actual resolution was rather anti-climactic, and makes you wonder why the characters didn’t think of it before.
Overall, the plot holes and contrivances outweighed what was good about the movie, because they hampered my immersion into this film’s atmosphere and world. It has some amazing scenes, good acting, solid directing and music, and definitely got me tense more than a few times, but the script and plotting desperately needed some reworking. I do not recommend this film if you’re prone to nitpicking, but if you’re not, then I think you will have a good time watching A Quiet Place. Despite its flaws, the good parts are definitely worth witnessing, and I’m interested in seeing what John Krasinski does next with a better script.