Jim from The Office (John Krasinski) would have you believe that his directorial debut, A Quiet Place, is a thrill-laden creature feature that celebrates the limitless love of family, even in the face of impossible terror. A likely story, Jim, if that is your real name (and we know it’s not). In reality, A Quiet Place is a 90-minute demonstration of why children are foul hellbeasts that bring only noise and death, in that order. “Do you like your life?” asks Jim. “Then don’t breed. If you breed, nightmarish monsters who are always there listening to everything will deconstruct literally every aspect of your life.”
This beloved theme is embedded in a mostly silent film with a threadbare plot description that somehow still took three writers. Set in the near future, alien-demons with hella teeth, no eyes and go-go-Gadget ears have brought forth extinction. Lee (Krasinksi) and Evelyn (Emily Blunt) try to survive on a farm by bein’ real, real quiet. Except, as mentioned above, they’re filthy infested with kids. The whole film is just one family’s quest to shut the hell up, which is really the timeless tale of all humanity.
Aside from the vile, gruesome images of, you know, parenting, the film isn’t “scary” so much as it is tense. It’s basically the same sensation as realizing in the middle of a traffic jam that you very clearly made the wrong gamble in not using the bathroom before you left. Every 2-3 minutes you clench everything clenchable, bracing for something unspeakable to happen. But, like, in a fun way.
Less fun is the unclever cleverness that occurs whenever A Quiet Place thinks bigger. The amply betoothed murder locusts have a wicked cool design, but the logic as to how they wrought the apocalypse is shaky. Looking the other way at endless acres of corn in perfect rows that would have had to be planted quietly by hand is one thing. However, newspaper headlines that show humanity understood the gist of the monsters’ schtick well before civilization went “boink” is combined with a third act reveal that ruins all dystopian plausibility. Disbelief not suspended.
But all that really matters is whether the creatures are spooky enough to “demo our gorgons” and whether the thrills are sphincter puckery enough. Check and check. Thematically, it’s only a half-joke to suggest the film is a cautionary tale about how raising a family is a terrifying, mortality-inducing prospect. In the same way that The Babadook is a meditation on grief, A Quiet Place is a dissertation on how having kids means living in nonstop fear of mortality while begging for a silence that never lasts.
That’s definitely not the message that wanna-be alpha-male dads who loved Krasinski when he starred in Michael Bay’s Benghazi bedlam movie are gonna take home. They’re going to salivate over the “must defend the family at all costs” and “fathers are not to be questioned, only trusted” tropes that play out like a very special episode of the blissfully canceled Last Man Standing. To be clear, A Quiet Place isn’t necessarily an explicit, purposeful promotion of regressive family dynamics because it can also be (playfully but legitimately) read as a warning against reproduction. In the end, it’s just a slightly overhyped but perfectly taut “haunted house” to visit in the middle of spring.
Grade = B