I may have said before on this blog that despite being a horror fan, it's rare that I find a film truly frightening. Oh sure, I'll leap out of my skin at a well placed jump scare, or find scenes lingering in my head long after the credits have rolled, but sweaty-palmed, heart pumping terror is a rarity.
A Quiet Place, directed by John Krasinski, may be the most tense I've felt in a cinema. Much of this is based on it's premise, which is so head slapping simple that a lot of people are probably angry at themselves that they didn't come up with it years ago.
Without giving too much away, the world has been pretty much destroyed by the sudden arrival of a horde of spindly-limbed, leathery skinned evil bastard monsters. Though blind, they have acute hearing and move at deadly speed. Basically, if you make a noise anywhere, at any time, you're quickly in for a whole world of eviscerating. The family at the centre of the film (their names are not given, though are seen in credits) has a daughter who is deaf, so they have presumably survived this long (the bulk of the film takes place on “Day 430”) due to being fluent in sign language.
From this relatively basic set up Krasinski is able to mine a seemingly endless amount of tension. The sound design plays a large part, with the score used sparingly and every noise made taking on terrifying significance. This drags you completely into the family's world, which is a deeply unpleasant place to be. It doesn't help that the family (for most part) make entirely the right decisions in order to survive, but things still go so hideously wrong. An early scene sets out clearly and heart-wrenchingly that absolutely no-one is safe.
The pacing also helps. Despite being only 90 minutes long, the film is unafraid to take it's time. Early sections show how the family are living their lives and surviving, covering paths in sand, painting the non-squeaky floorboards, trying to contact other survivors and teaching the kids maths. The slow pace may be too much for some, but it only ramps up the energy when things go even more to hell in the final third.
A Quiet Place is a brilliant exercise in sustained tension, peppered with some of the best jump scares your correspondent has seen (and heard) in a while. The performances are uniformly excellent, with most emotions obviously conveyed silently. The creature design is impressive, with the beasts being like something out of Silent Hill. It all adds up to an original and intelligent horror film which is one of the scariest thrill rides of recent times - 9