January 21, 2019

A Brief Review of A Quiet Place (2018)

House used as the Abbott family home in A Quiet Place

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As is my usual custom, it took me quite a while to get around to seeing A Quiet Place (2018), one of the most talked about horror films of last year. I went into it with high hopes. The many positive reviews the film received made me think it might be something really special. But I also went into it with one big reservation. John Krasinski, who both directed and starred in the film, is none other than Jim from The Office. That was one of my favorite TV shows while it was on, and I've probably seen every episode at least four times. I was worried that I would not be able to take Krasinski seriously in any role other than Jim from The Office.

To my surprise, it only took me about 10 minutes to get over the idea that Jim from The Office was now the lead in a horror movie. I think that giving him a beard and barely allowing him to speak helped considerably. While there is no way I am ever going to accept him as Jack Ryan, having him in this film was not nearly as distracting as I feared it might be. For better or worse, that freed me up to focus on other things.

I also need to give the film credit for being very attractive. The locations worked well, and the scenery was beautiful. The colors really popped, and they used both natural and artificial lighting effectively. Even though I did not have the chance to watch it on Blu-ray, I'd have to think it would look even better on that format.

Unfortunately, A Quiet Place was yet another horror film that was not remotely scary, but that has become so common with contemporary horror flicks that I cannot fault it too much for that. Besides, there were more than enough gaping plot holes to ruin the film that it makes more sense to focus on them. The plot was very simple: the world has been destroyed by invading aliens who are hypersensitive to sound. When any survivor makes even the slightest sound, one quickly appears and kills them. Thus, survival depends on being very quiet. Unfortunately, this is where the plot holes start.

To buy the premise of the film, we would need to believe that it is possible for any human to make it over 400 consecutive days without sneezing, coughing, snoring, or making a sound of similar volume without thinking. We're also asked to believe that the survivors, despite having electricity, a gun, and a fair amount of technological sophistication never think of any of the many solutions to their alien problem that will be evident to the audience after about 20 minutes. Why not generate white noise as cover? Why not set traps and use sound as a lure? Perhaps there were too many aliens for these approaches to work; however, it is not clear that any of the characters knew that until the very end of the film.

Although the plot holes were more than sufficient to ruin this one for me, there was an even bigger problem that took me most of the film to identify. During many points of the film, especially those that involved the aliens, I found myself thinking that what I was seeing seemed awfully familiar. I couldn't put my finger on it, but the film reminded me of something I had seen before. I realize it is very difficult to make a horror film that doesn't seem derivative and that someone who watches as many horror movies as I do is bound to have reactions like this fairly often. Still, something about A Quiet Place seemed so familiar that I started to wonder if I had seen it before. And then it finally hit me. If you take away the sound gimmick, you are left with M. Night Shyamalan's Signs (2002).

I realize they aren't exactly the same films, but the differences were trivial without the sound gimmick. And yes, I did consider it a gimmick. It did make A Quiet Place far more interesting than it would have been otherwise, but it also wore thin quickly and introduced the aforementioned plot holes. Honestly, I thought Signs was a much better film, and that's not saying much.