A Quiet Place (4 stars)

A Quiet Place

John Krasinski directs and stars in a superb, sci-fi infused horror, also featuring his wife Emily Blunt

Who doesn't love a smart horror movie that acts as a thrill ride for grownups, as well as the teens at whom genre flicks are typically aimed? Eschewing the heavy-handed VFX and found-footage format which have dominated such fare, this sci-fi frightener sets itself apart by virtue of its beautiful simplicity and thoughtful composition.

In a film with almost no dialogue, director-star John Krasinski carefully and cannily picks out the visual details that at some point will figure in the plot. Some of these are subtle, others not quite so much – that nail sticking out of a floorboard clearly portends a gruesome misstep in waiting – but they are fun hints and clues that enhance the disturbing vibe as tension notches ever upwards.

Krasinski and real-life wife Emily Blunt (both excellent) play the parents who, with their children – a deaf teenaged girl (played by exceptional young deaf actress Millicent Simmonds from Wonderstruck) and younger boy (Wonder's Noah Jupe) – live and work in silence on their upstate New York farm. We meet them, mysteriously barefoot and creeping slowly and on tiptoe, communicating in sign language while foraging in a deserted town for odds and ends in a looted store.

The nature of the catastrophe that has emptied the streets is revealed in a shocking conclusion to this prologue. The action then moves to over a year later, with Blunt's Evelyn heavily pregnant, Kraskinski's Lee spending hours in the cellar working on ways to overcome the threat that menaces them, their son in a permanent state of fear and their daughter chafing restlessly at the constraints of their survivalist life. Every sound makes you jump, anticipating the terrors around them that are gathering to pounce.

What is most satisfying here is not just the effective frights that unpredictably punctuate the family's existence, but the empathy that builds up with them and how moved we are by their plight. Without explanatory exposition (background events are conveyed via newspaper clippings and Lee's workboards) and with just a few whispered exchanges, you understand the love that sustains these people and fret over how you would cope in their circumstances. Without giving anything away, the film is uplifting: who needs an army when you have an angry mum defending her kids?

It's easy to enthuse about the originality of this piece but, weirdly, as so often happens in filmland, there is another similar-sounding flick on its way, The Silence, from Tim Lebbon's novel – and one of its stars is Krasinski and Blunt's brother-in-law Stanley Tucci. That could make the next family get-together awkward, so we hope for all our sakes that it proves every bit as good as this.

General release from Thu 5 Apr.

A Quiet Place

  • 4 stars
  • 2018
  • US
  • 1h 30min
  • 15
  • Directed by: John Krasinski
  • Cast: Emily Blunt, John Krasinski, Millicent Simmonds, Noah Jupe

Lee Abbott (Krasinski), his wife Evelyn (Blunt), son (Jupe) and deaf daughter (Simmonds) live and work in an empty dystopian world in complete silence, hiding from creatures who hunt by sound. Krasinski's third film as director is a smart, weird sci-fi frightener that is beautifully simple but thoughtfully composed.