Shut up, MacGuffin, before you get us all killed

It’s a good thing they still make them like this. A Quiet Place is more than one notch above the Insidious or Paranormal or Conjuring franchises; in fact, the movie has its roots as much in sci-fi than in horror, because they planned at an earlier stage to embed that story here into the world of Cloverfield. I don’t want to SPOIL the movie for anyone, but if you haven’t spent the last few weeks under a rock or in Area X, you know that A Quiet Place is about a family who find themselves alone in a post-apocalyptic world wherein you cannot make a single sound or the beasties in the woods will get you. It probably won’t surprise you all that much if I tell you that an early draft of the screenplay contained only one single line of dialogue.

Since conversations must be strictly limited, the cast has to make do with physical movements and facial expressions to get things across; the whole Abbott family uses sign language, and not just because their oldest daughter Regan (Millicent Simmonds) is deaf. They constantly go barefoot, and the most important paths between the farm buildings or through the cornfields around the house are strewn with sand. The marked floorboards in the house are those that don’t creak. As a yardstick for the amount of dialogue in this movie: all the names in this review I have gleaned from imdb, because I can’t remember them from the movie because, well, if you call anyone to come hither, you’re as good as dead. It’s also a plus that the monsters in the woods with their hypersensitive hearing are not given any explanation.

Since I’ve already acquainted you with Chekov’s gun, let me also show you the ammunition. Evelyn Abbot (Emily Blunt) is pregnant. Have you ever heard of a soundless birth? There you go. A Quiet Place is above all a movie about sound. It features that beautiful Neil Young song, Harvest Moon. It’s about an unborn baby’s heartbeat. It’s about breathing or not breathing, and standing perfectly still. It’s about cornfields rustling in the night, and about the shrill whistle of a cochlear implant. And it’s about sitting on top of the corn silo, lighting the signal fire to show that you are still alive to anyone that is able to see you. A Quiet Place is directed by John Krasinski, who also stars in it.

I had a few minor quabbles with the story. There are newspaper clippings stating that military-grade rifles failed to kill the monsters. Why then is Evelyn able to shoot one of them with her shotgun? And if it turns out that she and her newborn can retire to some kind of underground shelter that is covered with only a mattress, why on earth doesn’t the family gather in there regularly to at least have whispered conversations? And why doesn’t a running car engine attract the monsters, but a quietly fussing rodent does? Questions like those don’t ruin the movie for me, but they are the difference between a very good movie and a great one. A Quiet Place falls in the first category.

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