Thursday, April 5, 2018

Yikes! A truly effective chiller

In A Quiet Place, you'll find both shock and horror.
Movies have taken us to hundreds of shattered worlds in which people suffer in the aftermath of a great catastrophe. A Quiet Place falls into that hoary category but brings a startling new effectiveness to the genre.

Directed, co-written by and co-starring John Krasinski, A Quiet Place teams Krasinski with his real-life wife Emily Blunt. Together they conduct an exercise in terror and suspense that proves riveting.

Krasinski knows how to deliver jolts, but for once, they're not inflicted on stupid characters who do things that no sane person would attempt, an obligatory trip into a darkened basement, for example. Put another way: the premise may be outlandish but the human behavior in A Quiet Place proves credible enough to ward off groans.

That’s not to say that you won’t find things with which to quibble. It is to say that Krasinski has enough command over the material to create a steady stream of shock and horror.

We’re in a time that looks very much like the present. The difference: Giant bug-like creatures have appeared (the movie wisely doesn’t give the creatures a backstory) and are busy wiping out humanity.

The twist — and it’s just here that the movie acquires much of its power — involves the nature of these monsters. Their form — partially glimpsed at first — suggests vaguely human and distinct monster characteristics. Their gaping mouths can deliver Alien bites, and they move with amazing speed.

These monsters also are blind, locating their prey by following sounds with ears that evidently function with radar-like precision.

That means everyone in the movie must remain silent or be eaten alive. The quiet works to enhance the suspense.

As parents living on a farm in upstate New York, Krasinski and Blunt play characters intensely devoted to protecting their two surviving children (Millicent Simmonds and Noah Jupe). Because Simmonds' character is deaf, the family knows how to sign. This may give them a leg up on the monsters; the parents and kids can communicate without speaking. (Subtitles translate the signed dialogue.)

Krasinski builds his movie around a couple of major set pieces. In one of them, Blunt’s pregnant character goes into labor under the most harrowing circumstances imaginable. In another, Jupe's character falls into a silo, nearly suffocating under the weight of the stored grain.

The cast members do a good job conveying anxiety and fear and there are touches that make you wince -- albeit in ways that are both contrived and harrowing. At one point, Blunt’s character steps on a nail. Our stomachs tighten because the last thing she can do is cry out in pain.

A Quiet Place may be a little short of emotional and thematic resonance but Krasinski doesn’t shortchange the kind of moments that may find you tightly gripping the arms of your seat. A Quiet Place is the kind of movie that can cause a stir in audiences as everyone jumps, winces and exhales in unison. Enjoy.

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