By his own admission, John Krasinski isn’t a “horror guy.” The affable paper product salesman from The Office expanded his repertoire to include an ecology-centric drama with Matt Damon and some gun toting military hagiography for Michael Bay, but to think of him as the mastermind behind what may well be the year’s best horror thriller was a stretch, even for he himself to believe. However, the actor went through a life altering event that’s speared hearts with existential dread throughout history: He became a parent. Every mother and father knows the many joyous moments of having children are also spiked with a multitude of anxieties and fears. Their health, safety, and future are all perilously stacked in your lap, and when they’re grown you may come to discover all your efforts preparing them to stand on their own two feet are futile in the face of a harsh world. Krasinski wrapped these sensations together into a small, simple and striking monster movie concept to deliver A Quiet Place, which like recent predecessors from new horror directors such as It Follows and Get Out, sticks a very harsh landing in its own right.
As effective as those two films were in delivering slow build creeps and racial justice messaging, respectively, neither put you on the edge of your seat the way A Quiet Place does. With its sterling sound design and lengthy passages of a family needing to make next to no noise in order to survive, the film draws a silent theater audience inside its world to an almost unnatural degree. I guarantee it’s a shared experience at the movies unlike any other, and in many respects is more immersive than a big budget 3D IMAX affair. Cinematographer Charlotte Bruus Christensen grabs us and holds us with plenty of closeups. And the cast, led by Director Krasinski and wife Emily Blunt, are as steadfast and sympathetic as you can imagine. They lead a nuclear family through a monster filled wasteland, where ropy menaces that wouldn’t look out of place on the set of Stranger Things come running—very, very quickly—at any significant sound. Their lethality is established early, and while our heroes are granted a variety of dialogue filled moments, the creatures are never far away and always on the hunt.
For a young filmmaker who professes neophyte status in the genre, Krasinski certainly builds a thrill delivery device with seeming ease. He draws us into this menacing little universe in no small part by focusing on what planted the germ of the concept in the first place, family. The parents and children teeter between functioning at a high level considering the circumstances and being obliterated in mere seconds throughout the film, as the elders try their best to impart the smarts and sense to their children necessary to survive beyond them. It’s a quick, easy and utterly effective metaphor, bundling every danger that could befall your child into a species of predator that can pop into their lives and end them at any moment. Is this broad concept new to horror? Of course not. But adding the tweak of silence and a bevy of good acting makes A Quiet Place one of the most intense movies to come along in years. Internet scolds may pick and pry at the edges of the film’s logistics here and there, yet the dark, pulse pounding movie magic cast throughout this thriller is strong.