The world is almost deserted of people, or that's how it appears, but in this small town there is a family who pick their way through the local supermarket, scavenging for food that the vast majority of inhabitants simply do not need anymore. As they collect bits and pieces that may come in handy, the middle child, Beau (Cade Woodward) sees a toy space shuttle he would love to play with, and tries to take it down, almost dropping it before his deaf sister Regan (Millicent Simmonds) catches it before it hits the floor. His mother (Emily Blunt) and father (John Krasinski) have always implored Beau to be quiet, but to cheer him up Regan allows him the toy, not noticing he has replaced the batteries...
And why do they need to be so silent? Those details were merely sketched in so that we could understand we were in alien invasion territory, and also these intruders were very sensitive to sound, so much so that any person making a noise would be immediately targeted by something that looks like a close, blind relative of the Alien from, er, Alien. These creatures, we can surmise, have spread across the globe and basically eaten everyone they can find; we have no idea if there are any survivors in any other parts of the United States, or any other country for that matter, all we know is this family, the Abbotts, are prevailing against terrible odds to keep going through a living hell.
This was so high concept it was well nigh vertiginous, but the script by Bryan Woods and Scott Beck (with assistance by director/star Krasinski) stuck with a premise that many horror films had used before, only not as extensively. We all know you have to be quiet if the villain or monster is stalking you so as not to alert them to your presence, but what if that was the entire basis for the movie? It was such a simple notion that it was surprising no one had used it before, not to this extent anyway, but there was why some writers have hits and others meander along in their wake. Woods and Beck were clear they wanted to be original, and that extended to not making a remake or sequel or in any connection to a franchise.
There had apparently been talk of linking this in with J.J. Abrams' Cloverfield, and you could see how that would have been implemented, yet why it would have diminished the concept here if we had too much to think about. Yes, there were mysteries in A Quiet Place, but you didn't ponder them until the film was over; while you were watching, you would likely be caught up in the suspense of a story of some degree of purity of intent, unless you had trouble giving yourself over to fantastical premises, in which case horror movies and science fiction were not for you. What was satisfying was the integrity of the central family, more or less the only human life we see from start to finish, and how they were struggling to cope with tragedy when simultaneously struggling to keep on living against the odds.
Blunt and Krasinski were married in real life, of course, and that was channelled into one of the most convincing screen couples in genre fiction, we can tell they have spent a lot of time together as characters and are well aware of how to get by, though the trouble with Regan raises the issues of guilt and how that can put pressure on even the strongest of relationships, whether culpability is a factor or not. But what was most intriguing about this was how, with its deliberate restrictions applied to the characters making it resemble a writing class exercise, A Quiet Place was closer to arthouse sensibilities than the mainstream which it was smuggled into. It was certainly a substantial success, but it was also practically a silent movie or a movie in a foreign language with subtitles (the Abbotts use sign language) and had abstract tendencies for its menaces. It may fall apart under pitiless scrutiny, but give in to it and this was a smart little chiller where you almost wish they had taken the concept further into the abstract. Music by Marco Beltrami.