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A QUIET PLACE is the Most Satisfying Jump Scare Movie in History (Review)

I’ve become a curmudgeon of horror movies, a grouchy old hand who thinks a lot of modern horror gets it wrong. This comes not from a desire to see things more watered down; quite the opposite in fact. I want them to try harder and actually elicit real scares, not just rely on loud things to startle us. A jump scare every now and then is fine, but movies shouldn’t base their entire ability to frighten on what amounts to a cinematic balloon pop. John Krasinski‘s A Quiet Place seemed poised to do exactly what I dislike; it’s an entire movie about being quiet. And yet it’s one of the tensest, truly scariest movies to come out in a long time.

The set-up is ingenious: the world has been beset by creatures who hunt based on sound, and they’re incredibly fast about it. Basically, if you make any noise louder than a light cough or the shuffling of feet, these beasts will come out of nowhere and pick you off. Krasinski and his real-life wife Emily Blunt play parents of three children, living an exceedingly silent existence in the country and trying their hardest not to make noise. But, of course, they do, and they have to try to defend their home and save their family.

Gotta love a simple premise, but it goes much deeper than that. The script, originally by Scott Beck and Bryan Woods, later worked on by Krasinski himself, never lets up the action and the peril for our small band of characters, but nevertheless allows for a great deal of development and interpersonal drama. The couple’s eldest child (played beautifully by Millicent Simmonds) is deaf, which means the family can all communicate via sign language, but it also means that she is at a distinct disadvantage. She can’t tell when a loud noise has been made, which means she also can’t tell when the creatures are coming.

This is Krasinski’s third film as director and a clear departure in tone and scale from his earlier talky comedies. He’s incredibly self-assured in the horror/thriller field and tension is built from the very beginning. We’re sure no one is safe, even in a film full of children. I also applaud the film for showing us the creature enough without doing it too much. It’s not visually dissimilar to some other recent monsters, but we get to understand its physiology, entirely through action and visual storytelling. We comprehend enough without needing an info-dump.

A Quiet Place plays its jump scares at exactly the right points, with several of them being the red herring fake-outs audiences need to release tension. I’m very grateful not all of the movie’s scares come from a loud noise breaking the quiet, though. There’s a surprising amount of fear to be mined by our characters hiding in plain sight trying not to breathe or scream, like the deadliest game of Marco Polo. Blunt has several scenes on her own where the world seems to be conspiring against her to make her make a noise. If you needed any more evidence that Blunt is a massive screen star, and a badass of epic proportions, watch her nearly burst blood vessels in her face trying not to scream or express any audible pain at all. Just phenomenal.

Ultimately, A Quiet Place is a movie that delivers wall-to-wall scares and creature thrills we haven’t seen done this satisfyingly in a very long while. A whole movie could have been made of the parents retrofitting their farmhouse and grounds for maximum silence, especially making walking paths out of soft sand. How long would that have taken?! The movie is a brisk 90 minutes but it never feels like the threat isn’t clearly defined and the character dynamics aren’t rock solid. It’s the story of one family trying to make it in a world stacking the decks against them, and that’ll always endear audiences to it. I left the cinema not wanting to make noise, for fear of the creatures getting me, and that’s the mark of an effective horror movie if I ever heard it.

4 out of 5 noiseless burritos

Images: Paramount

Kyle Anderson is the Associate Editor for Nerdist. You can find his film and TV reviews here. Follow him on Twitter!

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