By: Lucas Henkel | Arts & Entertainment Editor
April 26, 2018
I’m a horror nerd. In fact, I’m probably one of the only few people at this school who can watch a good horror movie any day, any time. So as a horror nerd, I’ve heard of A Quiet Place many months ago back when it was only a teaser. In fact, you may even remember my early thoughts on the movie back when the Super Bowl trailer came out. However, after finally seeing the movie for myself, I’ve made up my mind.
A Quiet Place is not a bad movie. It’s not a great movie, but since I don’t want to be the party-pooper who’s taking a dump on a movie with a 95% on Rotten Tomato, let me at least say that it was a decent horror movie overall. It has a good atmosphere, good acting, and an interesting story and premise. Not to mention the fact that this is John Krasinki’s third movie he’s ever made and the first horror movie he’s ever made.
A Quiet Place takes place in a post-apocalyptic near-future. The world has been invaded by blind mantis-like creatures. How do they see? Powerful pin-point hearing if it isn’t obvious already. Anyways, the movie focuses on a family of four—initially five during the initial prologue—surviving in an abandoned old farm by living as silently as possible, communicating through sign language instead of vocal speech. Obviously, we wouldn’t have a movie if nothing happened, now would we?
Weirdly enough, this brings me to one of the smaller issues I have with this movie. To sum up what happens without spoiling too much, basically, the only real reason anything bad happened to the main protagonists, is childbirth. It sounds weird out of context, but hear me out. The movie takes place over four hundred days into the future post-initial invasion. A pregnancy lasts a little less than three hundred days. Why in the name of God, would you try to procreate in the middle of an apocalypse like that? I mean think about it, I don’t even want to know how they soundproofed the consummation process. On top of that, a baby would infinitely make life harder and make way too much noise. This probably seems like a really petty thing to complain about, but the reason why this sort of annoys me way more than it should, is because there’s an easy fix to the situation. If the writers had changed the timeline a bit so that the movie took place somewhere two hundred days into the future instead of four hundred, then I wouldn’t even be having this discussion.
The movie, visually, is pretty good I suppose. I didn’t have any particular moment where I was wowed or anything like that, but that’s not to be expected anyways. The three main things I was looking at were: The family, the monster and—weirdly enough—the color palette.
I think the main cast–Karasinki himself included–did a pretty good job at acting. Their performances felt real and believable. I say this especially towards Millicent Simmonds, who I think did an amazing job. Her performance portrayed regret and sadness, as well as strength and courage. She was probably the most fleshed out character in the entire movie. But again, that doesn’t mean everyone else felt flat or anything like that, in fact, I think the family, in general, was pretty well written and acted. I also thought it was really impressive how the cast pretty much spoke in sign language throughout the entire movie, which I can imagine being fairly difficult to do for some of the actors. In fact, SCHS Senior, Adam Ortiz, agrees with me, stating “Acting was great and was done to perfection, including the kids, it’s very hard to find great child actors.”
The mantis-creatures I thought were also pretty good. I thought their design was pretty good, and that they had aspects of realism in the way they acted and hunted in the world, not to mention the fact that they do look and sound incredibly unsettling at times. However, the way they were presented felt a little weak. The problem I had, was that the monster was revealed a little too early I think. I’m one of those people who believe in more hidden horrors, and unfortunately, in A Quiet Place, you already saw way too much of the creatures by the movie’s mid-point. On top of that, the movie every now and then lingered on the monster way too long in an attempt to establish suspense because, at that point, you’ve been given enough time to point out that the monster is CGI. I feel that if they kept it mostly in the shadows and reduced the extensive close-up shots up until the finale, like in Ridley Scott’s Alien, it would have made the monster much more menacing and–most importantly–believable.
On that note, I feel like I should address the color palette thing I mentioned earlier. Although this is more of a preference than anything else, I felt like there was a missed opportunity here in making the movie more stressed and uncomfortable by having a relatively vibrant color palette throughout. Know I just want to get this out of the way right now, I do not like how some movies opt for overt color grading, but I do believe in the importance of it to a certain extent; good color grading is what helps establishes a movie’s tone. My main point here is that if he were to have toned down the colors a bit, the world would have felt somewhat darker and grimmer, which would help attribute to the movie’s atmosphere. Not completely muted, just a bit more faded. But, as I’ve said, this is more of a personal opinion for I’m sure some people wouldn’t like this thought at all.
Sound design is something I take very seriously when it comes to horror movies. In fact, I wouldn’t even limit it to just horror movies, but to all movies in general. In the case of A Quiet Place, it’s a hit and miss. There are things I definitely do like, and there are things makes me want to slap whoever thought “that” was a good idea.
When it comes to the actual audio, like sound effects and etcetera, I think it was well done. I love what Krasinki has done. By giving the audience the silent treatment for the majority of the film, I felt greatly immersed in the world and its atmosphere. I love how he also is able to contrast the silence with even the most basic of noises to help keep the audience on edge, amplifying the tension of some scenes to another tier. Although this could be applied to merely jump-scares, thankfully, there were practically none throughout—in fact, I could probably count on one hand the number of cheap scares that were done, so kudos to that. SCHS Sophomore Tyler Tracy also agrees with me on that, saying that “I feel like this was better than most horror movies that just rely on jump scares; You need atmosphere for a horror movie.”
As for the music department though, I have very strong reservations about some of the creative decisions made. For a movie titled A Quiet Place, the music sure ain’t. The movie’s soundtrack during the first quarter of the movie is very nice in my opinion. In the earlier scenes, before everything hits the fan, there was an emphasis on serene piano pieces that help effectively represent the moodiness of the film, the struggle of the family of focus, as well as the hope they have. In my opinion, I think the first handful of tracks you hear work perfectly with the film, however, things take a downward spiral real fast.
In the later parts of the movie, the movie takes the typical modern horror stance, using an unnecessary amount of strings and other instruments. As a result, the audio quickly becomes too cluttered and simply distracting. I absolutely hated it when I was watching the movie. It makes me livid just thinking about it even! I wanted to unnerve by the music without even realizing it’s there, that’s the job of a good music score: To enhance the scene invisibly. That’s what separates good and bad movie soundtracks, and unfortunately, it simply failed in the case of this movie. What’s even more annoying is the fact that if the movie simply didn’t even use music in some of the scenes, it would’ve been even more unsettling. I think a perfectly good example of this kind of film-making would be the blood-test scene from John Carpenter’s The Thing.
I actually ended up stumbling across an article from IGN whilst writing this review talking about the movie’s creative audio decisions, and there’s this one quote from Krasinki that irritates me with this issue even further. “There was way more music that was delivered, for sure. But in my opinion, there’s a threshold that you can push people, and what I wanted to do is make sure that people had some familiarity with movies from before, so it didn’t feel like an experiment.” John! For eff’s sake! Even the director himself admitted that there was too much music! I mean, I get the point that no music throughout the entire film wouldn’t bode well, I do agree with that, but why must there be two extremes?!? The movie would have been so much better off if they kept the tense moments with subtle tonal pads instead of a bombastic orchestra. That way, the movie would still retain its intended noise-contrast, keeping the audience’s the focus on the movie like it should be!
To the mainstream audience, I wouldn’t be surprised that this wouldn’t be an issue for you, but as a dedicated film and horror enthusiast, I simply cannot get over this issue. I’ve seen many horror flicks over the years, and I’ve seen movies where loud-mouthed scores can and do work, most notably amongst Italian classics oddly enough, like Suspiria and The Beyond. Unfortunately though, it just simply does not work in the case of A Quiet Place, it simply does not fit its audio balance motif that I discussed earlier. This problem alone is the main reason why I don’t think it deserves all of the praise it gets.
I think A Quiet Place is definitely one of the better horror movies in recent years, especially when compared to shallow jumpscare cash-grab dribble like Insidious: The Last Key and Annabelle: Creation. In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised that’s the reason why the movie was liked by so many: It’s refreshing. I definitely enjoyed watching the movie, but unfortunately, I just didn’t feel scared as I was watching. However, that’s entirely debatable. Afterall, I’m probably heavily desensitized at this point honestly.