*Sigh* You guys, I honestly don’t even want to write this review. A Quiet Place was a well-crafted movie that most moviegoers will enjoy, but it didn’t really speak to me personally, and I didn’t really enjoy it. That’s it. Thanks for coming. See you next time.
…. I guess you’re probably wanting more than that, so here we go:
As I said, this movie was very well-crafted. So far it has critics raving, and it looks likely to get a positive response from audiences, so perhaps I should mention what it did well first. This movie really plays up the “quiet” angle. This is definitely a film that follows the mantra “show, don’t tell.” If you’re a fan of visual storytelling, this film is for you. Most of the key plot points, backstory, and other stuff that would normally be established through exposition are shown to you in this movie rather than told. So pay attention to what you’re seeing, otherwise you might miss something really important.
In addition to that, as I mentioned, the movie is very quiet. There’s very little spoken dialogue (it’s mostly sign language with subtitles) and the music is usually subdued. It was actually so quiet for much of the movie that I was nervous about eating my popcorn for fear that the sound would potentially bother those sitting around me. There was a point about 20 minutes into the movie where the man sitting next to me tried to whisper something to the woman that he was with, and she quickly shushed him saying: “This movie’s too quiet! We can’t whisper! They’ll hear us!” Luckily, that seemed to be the sentiment of the rest of the patrons: I’ll admit, I was worried when I initially walked into the auditorium and it was mostly full of loud and rambunctious teenagers, but I was pleasantly surprised that they quieted down once the movie started. (Unfortunately, I’ve had a few past experiences where that was not the case).
This movie is also a slow burn that earns its suspenseful moments. While there are a few scares sprinkled throughout the movie, it saves most of them for its climax. (It actually reminded me a lot of Signs in terms of its structure and pacing, if that’s a helpful reference for anyone).
Lastly, this movie is surprisingly minimalistic in its storytelling. It gives you exactly as much information as you need to know, and nothing more. In fact, at the end of the movie (no spoilers, I promise) it literally just gives you enough information so that you know exactly how the story is going to resolve, and once that information is provided, the credits roll. Most movies will show you the conclusion, no matter how obvious it is. Instead, A Quiet Place is like “So you know how this is going to end now, right? We cool? Okay, thanks for coming.”
So why didn’t I like this? Two main reasons: first, this was a very suspenseful movie, but it wasn’t very creepy. This is a great movie to see if you want to be on the edge of your seat, but not so great if you’re expecting chills to be sent down your spine. I’m not sure if it was the advertising, or just my personal mindset going into it, but I was expecting more of the latter than the former. That’s not to say that I don’t enjoy horror movies that are suspenseful rather than creepy. Psycho is one of my favorite films of all time, and I’d say that it is more about suspense than an unnatural creepiness that gets under your skin. A Quiet Place seems partially like this was just a case of mistaken expectations. I thought the movie was going to be one thing, but instead it was something totally different, and even though the different thing was good, I was disappointed because I didn’t get what I wanted.
However, there was a second and much bigger reason that I didn’t enjoy this movie: fairly early in the movie (about 30 minutes in), it is revealed that the two main characters have made a decision that’s going to significantly affect their lives, the lives of their children, and their chances of survival. I don’t think the filmmakers wanted you to ponder whether or not it was a good decision, or whether you would have made the same decision were you in their shoes. Rather, I think they just wanted you to take the decision for granted and roll with it. But I didn’t. Instead of saying, “okay, that’s the direction they’ve decided to take this story” and moving on, I spent most of the rest of the movie weighing the pros and cons of this decision, and contemplating whether or not the decision was in the best interest of the characters, and even humanity as a whole. (In a somewhat vague summary: it may have been a good idea in the long term, but in the short term, at that point in time, it was likely a very very bad idea that significantly endangered the main characters and their children.) And so, rather than focusing on the events of the movie as they happened, I spent most of the movie internally debating whether or not the characters made the right choice, and, to be honest, I never really came to a definitive conclusion. Again, I don’t think the filmmakers intended for this to happen. Questioning the merits and disadvantages of this decision certainly didn’t seem to be the point of the film. But for whatever reason, it stuck out to me and distracted me for the entire movie.
Anyway, if you want to see a film that knows how to build suspense and uses its sound design and visual storytelling extremely effectively, you’ll probably enjoy A Quiet Place. Just try not to overanalyze the characters’ choices. It may prevent you from enjoying an otherwise well-made movie.