A Quiet Place (2018)
Children of the corn
If your movie is almost entirely bereft of dialogue, it better have two things stitched into it pretty tightly: it better be visually entrancing, and it better be narratively sound.
If an audience in a mostly silent movie, or entirely silent movie, as the case may be, has something beautiful to look at and something enticing to follow, it won't even notice how much dialogue is or isn't there. Look at a movie like Drive (2011) for example. Very little dialogue, no words wasted. But the look of the film pops like neon with jagged edges, and the story is so involving and handily told, you immediately lose yourself in it.
A Quiet Place starts off that way. It looks great, technically. The film takes place in a post apocalyptic somewhere at some near future point in time, so everything is ugly neglected grime and twisted rust. But the degradation is beautifully rendered. And the story is immediately involving. In the first scene, a family of five tip toe barefoot through a supermarket collecting food and supplies, careful not to make any noise or disturb anything that might make any noise. At one point one of the children find a small toy plane that lights up and makes siren sounds and is about to set it off, when his father, played by John Krasinski, who also directed the film, yells at him in mouthed words and sign language that that would be too noisy. The whole set piece is pretty well done.
In fact, all of the film's set pieces are pretty well done. And therein lies the problem with A Quiet Place. It's a movie made up of moments, with not enough story to connect them in a cohesive or believable way.
The movie is an hour and a half long. Normally, that runtime is my sweet spot. Not too short and not too long. And I very rarely complain about a movie being too short. But A Quiet Place felt like it could have used another half an hour of exposition.
The horror the family faces at the hands of monsters, presumably from another planet, who are blind and hunt by sound, doesn't feel earned. Titles tell us the family has been living their life, avoiding the monsters by not making sounds, for about a year and a half when we join them. Then, in the next 24 hours, it's one big disaster after another.
The resolution of the film feels rushed and obvious and one of the only scenes of dialogue, which takes place under the sound cover of a rushing waterfall, is filled with hokey and forced dialogue that we find out later is meant to set up an emotionally climactic moment, which makes it even sillier.
All that being said, when the film is scary, it's scary. When it's tense, it's extremely tense. When it wants to be disturbing or wants to rattle you, it knows how. That's partly thanks to the very committed and believable performances from the small, talented cast. And it's partly thanks to the impressive orchestration from first time feature director Krasinski. And for some people, that's enough. That's what they pay to see in a horror movie.
Without a doubt, if what you are looking for from this movie is thrills and chills, you will be satisfied with what it has to offer. It is an hour and a half of twisting tension and horror movie jump scares, some of them cliche, some more original than what can be called run of the mill.
If what you are looking for, however, is a chilling yarn with an involving backstory and a narrative staircase with plot point stairs to climb on your way to the big climax, you'll end up only feeling half full by the time the final credits roll.