OMG. Was I in for a surprise!
Only after pausing to read the very brief and cryptic synopsis was I clued in that this movie was, in fact, science fiction, and it carried a chilling premise.
In case you missed it too, I'm going to attempt to do a spoiler-free review, though I'm not sure I'll succeed. It's important to understand the gist of what's happening to get a genuine grasp of the diabolically "quiet" plot.
A Quiet Place opens in a very austere setting. It appears to be a modern New England ghost town, with several children and adults padding around an abandoned store, investigating the merchandise. They don't speak. They only communicate with sign language. Leaves are strewn across the tile floor, the lights are out, and the store has no doors. In fact, no building anywhere has doors.
With the children's mother (played by Emily Blunt) having found the medicine needed for one of the sick children, Marcus (Noah Jupe) they prepare to leave. And that's when the first real indication of something truly sinister is delivered. The youngest boy has scrawled a crayon drawing of a rocket on the floor of the store. He signs to his sister, "That's how we'll get away." He then takes an interest in a space shuttle toy, which his father (played by John Krasinski, who also directed and co-wrote the screenplay) takes away from him and removes the batteries, telling him in sign language. "Too loud." His older sister looks on with sympathy.
The mother signs, "It will be dark soon" and the family files out of the store and begins their silent trek home, following a thin gray line on the ground. The line turns out to be sand, put there deliberately by the family. They are all barefoot. None of them speak. They walk single file down this thin line of sand and don't make a sound as they move.
Until one of them does...
And what is unleashed on this poor, hapless family is absolutely terrifying. It's a force of nature. But certainly not Nature as we know it.
The next scene skips forward more than a year.
If I were going to describe this movie, I might call it Alien meets The Village. There is no explanation of how the horrific menace arrived, but the astute viewer can catch glimpses of headlines in the background of the family's homestead that fill in many of the WTF? blanks.
These people are being threatened by creatures--alien creatures--and they are deadly predators. But they don't hunt in the way we would expect or are accustomed to. Not by sight. Not by smell. They stalk by sound. And their auditory prowess is so keenly developed that they can hear very small sounds from very great distances, and when they close in on prey, they can physically enhance their auditory abilities to zero in on their target.
The family has adapted as best it can to their new reality and to horrifying loss of one of their own. Walking barefoot. Following the trails of sand. The utter lack of language. Their structures have no doors that might slam. (It's not addressed but can probably be assumed that any of the more well known predators that might enter their home have been eliminated by the new arrivals.) Their floors are clearly marked so they know where to step, and how to avoid the sound of creaking boards. They play Monopoly with soft pieces so the game is silent. They eat with their fingers from wooden boards covered with lettuce leaves to hold their food--no dinnerware to clink, no silverware to clatter.
The children have been taught they MUST be noiseless, which presents more of a challenge for the daughter (Millicent Simmonds) because of her circumstances. She's deaf. She doesn't always know when she's making noise. Her father works tirelessly in his monitoring center/workshop to develop a cochlear implant hearing device that will work for her. It might be a matter of survival. But her deafness has created a rift between father and daughter, and she's clearly rebellious about his efforts.
The family is also very resourceful. They've create a soundproof, underground nursery...because the mother, Evelyn, is expecting, and the baby will be too young to understand he must remain silent. Or he will die.
This family isn't completely alone. There are other survivors in the area. Their fires can be seen in the distance, and...occasionally...they are encountered. But for the most part this small family group keeps to itself, growing or gathering food and working toward making their home more survivable.
One beautifully poignant scene drove home what it would be like to live in a world where all sound is suppressed, and the message is delivered via the sole music in the film, the song Harvest Moon by Neil Young. Maybe since the actor couple is married in real life it allowed them to convey the feelings on a very deep level, but even without words, their actions and emotions reveal a couple that has been deprived of something truly precious to them, because a world without sound is a world without stereos.
Not everything is explained. The audience is left to draw their own conclusions on many questions instead of leaving everything perfectly resolved. This leaves plenty of room for your imagination to connect the dots.
Here's the original trailer, which gives a great feel for the mood and ominous theme of A Quiet Place without giving away any key moments.
My grade? A definite Five Star GO.
If you missed this gem, and if sci-fi horror -- albeit with a few heart-breakingly romantic moments -- is your thing, it's an extraordinary tale that craftily builds suspense and springs surprises without resorting to cliche horror tropes. None of the characters behaved in TSTL (too stupid to live) mode, though the choices they make are sometimes wrong or immature, they are always understandable and relate-able.
I guarantee A Quiet Place will definitely leave you with a lingering sense of genuine disquiet.
Have a great week!