#SGWatch4U: The success of A Quiet Place, a wordless horror film that speaks volumes

#SGWatch4U is our weekly screen review column where we tackle anything from film to TV/Netflix.

I once received a funny suggestion on how to deal with frustration—screaming into a jar and capping it tightly, so the object would do all the bottling up of emotions for me. In the world of A Quiet Place, however, there is no such tolerance for emotional, vocal release. You deal with your petty feelings, or you die.

Real-life power couple Emily Blunt and John Kransinski star as a hearing couple living in a post-apocalyptic world run by strange beasts that hunt by sound. They lead their lives in complete silence, raising their children with extra-precautionary measures like lining pathways with sand so as to muffle footsteps, and communicating entirely in American Sign Language (ASL). Forget things that go bump in the night; the daytime is just as threatening.

The film, which premiered at South By Southwest early March, currently holds an approval rating of 100% on Rotten Tomatoes—a worthy score given its fresh approach to horror. Krasinski multitasks as actor, screenwriter and director to impressive effect. There’s no plot per se, since the family are well past the doomsday narrative; instead, A Quiet Place brings to mind the eerie sensibility of 2007’s I Am Legend, zeroing in on the perils of everyday survival amongst creatures that look like a cross between a Demogorgon and a Xenomorph. Truthfully, a big part of the allure is watching how inventive they get with their methods.

, #SGWatch4U: The success of A Quiet Place, a wordless horror film that speaks volumes
It’s a lonely road for father and son.

You know how late at night, when you’re trying your best to be quiet and inconspicuous so as not to wake anyone up, it always ends up being the most ridiculous of sounds that gives you away? A Quiet Place builds on the classic comedy film gag, and makes it its own unique brand of terror. For so much of the film you hold your breath in anticipation, praying silently for the characters as they maneuver deftly around everyday activities; so when the sudden burst of sound comes, your heart that was already in your throat shoots right out of your body.

And these aren’t necessarily jump scares; instead, they seem to take their inspiration from Hollywood camp and horror parodies (think the Scary Movie franchise), such that the build-up is genuinely distressing, but the release gratifying and almost goofy. No surprise there, given both Blunt and Kransinski’s career breakthroughs in comedy—The Devil Wears Prada and NBC’s The Office respectively. In one instance just moments after an unbearably tense scene, Blunt frantically asks her husband where the children are, to which he gravely replies after a second’s hesitation, “I will find them.” Classic Jim Halpert; and it left the cinema in stitches.

Naturally their chemistry is electrifying, but if Blunt and Kransinski lay the foundation for a winning formula, their onscreen children are the necessary embellishments that seal A Quiet Place’s success. Rounding out the cast are young actors Millicent Simmonds and Noah Jupe, who play the couple’s deaf daughter and hearing son respectively. Even in the presence of A-listers, both are scene stealers with the ability to display depth in equal parts facial and physical emotion. Simmonds in particular, who is in reality a deaf actress, is a prize find for the film, and lends that much more believability to a flick centered on the absence of sound.

, #SGWatch4U: The success of A Quiet Place, a wordless horror film that speaks volumes
Emily Blunt masters the look of silent terror.

Unlike many other “intelligent” horror films in today’s cinematic climate, A Quiet Place doesn’t lean on social commentary to get you thinking. Kransinski has compared the film’s premise to the state of US politics, but it will likely touch more people as a tale about a parent’s love and the lengths they go to to keep their children safe. Would you bring your child into a messed up world? Blunt’s tearful “Who are we if we can’t protect them?” is an honest, weighted question, embodying a parent’s belief that a life spent in fear is still one worth living if there’s someone else to live it for.

Bear in mind the movie isn’t actually entirely silent—instances of dialogue are sparse but effectively utilized, and make for some of the most tender moments of the film. A Quiet Place is full of good, fresh scares; but perhaps its most lasting impact will be making you just goddamn grateful for being able to make the random, thoughtless sounds that you do everyday.

A Quiet Place opens in cinemas Apr 5.