A quiet masterpiece

I was in the ‘Quietest Room in the World’ and I slowly beginning to lose my mind. Within the first few minutes, you will learn that even the slightest movement of your body – a twitch of the shoulder, a gulp, a shrug – makes sounds. How could I eat my popcorn after this? Is popcorn now the new ‘suck til it disintegrate’ sweet?

In about 15 minutes, you will begin to lose your sense of space – you tend to realize that your chair makes noise even if I was seating on a cushion.

A Quiet Place has that rare ability to evoke not only psychological reactions, but also physical ones – you might not faint, but you will gasp, you will perspire, and you will certainly be able to hear your heartbeat . And it’s Krasinski’s first time directing horror, and to that I salute this gentleman. Good Job!

What this film has – and so many other horror movies don’t – is the patience that is so necessary for horror to work. So often with these films we see an almost scientific approach to scares – it is almost as if a committee form by Donald Trump has sat down and decided that to be effective, the film must hurl unseen objects towards the audience, and punctuate moments of silence with loud bangs, just like his administration.

This never works. And Krasinski’s approach as director is to systematically dismantle these sad trends that have overtaken mainstream horror films these days. A Quiet Place is an effortless distillation of the three elements that define filmmaking: sound, light and actors.

And there isn’t really time for anything else in their world, a world whose stakes the film establishes in its very first scene. There is a larger story here, of course, but A Quiet Place is utterly unconcerned about the machinations of governments and the epic final stands of the military. All it cares about is one family, united by loss, and grappling for survival on an almost daily basis.

They live on a large farmhouse surrounded by a dense forest. In the forest lurk mysterious creatures that are attracted to sounds. Hearing these sounds sends the creatures into a murderous rampage, which was perhaps the reason why most of humanity seems to have died – ‘they hear you, they hunt you,’ is the film’s catchy tagline. The Abbotts are still alive, even after 479 days, but only because they’ve taken all the precautions. Their home is surrounded by lights, their bunkers are stocked, they speak only in sign language, and they have enough evasive manoeuvres planned in case of an emergency.

 

Without giving anything away, they have to stay alive and be quiet. If not the creatures will have them for lunch. But how can they do that with an incoming baby on the way? A baby that will scream and does not understand the concept of silence?

Whew! I’m just tired thinking about it.

Written by Mr. Adrian Lim

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