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Apr 12 2018

Contrarian Corner: A Quiet Place

Contrarian Corner is an irregular series in which TFE team members sound off on a film that they just can't join the consensus with.Chris loved the movie(as audiences seem to).But here's Sean Donovan with quite a different reaction...

A Quiet Placeis very very quiet,as all of the characters are keen to remind us,frantically throwing up a finger to their lips in a suppressed SHHHHH.The monsters can hear you,a mysterious species blind but intensely sensitive to sound,and capable of swinging in from far off distances to decimate any disturbance in the soundscape.As a result,one survivalist family of this ruined civilization (dad John Krasinski,mom Emily Blunt,children Millicent Simmonds and Noah Jupe) have calibrated their lives perfectly to function without sound.

I,for one,wanted more of a sense of this family's regular routine in their soundless environment: how do they communicate,how are their lives different,how do they have fun?You can imagine theSwiss Family Robinsonor Rube Goldberg machine fun this movie could have had: what are Noah Jupe's favorite sound-free toys?How does Emily Blunt make toast so the toaster stays PERFECTLY SILENT?

Unfortunately looking for details in this film weakens its overall somber demeanor (and it isvery somber) rather than build out its universe.A newspaper flapping in the wind boasts the absurd headline "IT'S SOUND!"across the front page.John Krasinski's chalk board of problem solving is equally ridiculous: I recall a green marker scrawl reading "WEAKNESSES?"in all caps and a hopeful question mark.But these details remain relatively invisible against the almighty power of a film-saving bit.A Quiet Placeobscures any deficiencies in logic or story construction by turning the volume way down.Should any character try to question aloud the rationales of this universe,'congrats buddy,you're monster food!'

Get Out,another recent small horror hit that exceeded expectations with both box office and critics,encouraged speaking up,getting up out of the sunken place and calling out horrifyingstructures of oppression for what they are.A Quiet Placein contrast stresses expediency and smooth process over all else,along with the return of a very antique death-as-punishment strategy (watch a child get murdered in the opening sequence for the greatest sin of all,playing with a toy!).InA Quiet Placeyou obey and keep quiet,following the rules of John Krasinski's paternal order,never questioning that Krasinski is right in all things forever and ever.

Somehow the reign of the sound-monsters has coincided with a return of very retro gender roles for our survivalist family.As we're introduced to the family's farm safety bunker we watch the women fuss in the kitchen while the men labor out in the yard.The daughter's rebellion against her father's gender-norms agenda (training her younger brother in finding food before her when she is transparently more capable) is raised as an issue,and then unceremoniously dropped when the monster crisis hits.When a strange sound is heard outside,the camera lavishes attention on John Krasinski's bearded "analyzing/decision-making"face as he tries to locate the sound.But when the film cuts to his family members,they're all looking straight at him,powerless to do their own detection.IsA Quiet Placea dystopian film,or is this everything John Krasinski's character could ever want?Time might be up for some powerful Hollywood men,and calls for greater diversity are getting stronger every day,but inA Quiet Placeeveryone simply has to shut up and listen to Jim fromThe Office.Or you'll die.

Despite these concerns,A Quiet Placeis a well-constructed machine,with some beautiful cinematography courtesy of Charlotte Bruus Christensen,and the ever-welcome presence of Emily Blunt,who can work wonders with anything.

I also in no way want to ignore the wonderful happenstance that deaf child actress Millicent Simmonds (Wonderstruck),who is so phenomenal it hurts,has now had two back-to-back fantastic vehicles to showcase her talent!Scene by scene there are some treasures,like a uniquely terrifying encounter in a grain silo.But the cumulative effect ofA Quiet Place,when horror cinema in the past few years has delivered so much in terms of smart thrilling catharsis,leaves me feeling alienated against the hasty critical raves.


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Reader Comments (10)

We all have our own tastes....but I loved this movie.For me the simplicity of the script gave it its strength.It was a tightly wound movie with extreme suspense..A lot more narrative would have drug it out.IMO

April 12,2018 | Unregistered Commentergrrr

Agreed on the grain silo.I quite enjoyed the film for the most part - my main quibble would be the monsters aren't the least bit frightening and Krasinski shows them off way too early.

April 12,2018 | Unregistered CommenterAndrew Carden

Totally agree.A toothless exercise.The raves for this utterly pedestrian film are baffling.

April 12,2018 | Unregistered CommenterKaren Silkwood

I like it buy expected more scares,it was q predictable in places and the tension zapped after the first death.

April 12,2018 | Unregistered Commentermarkgordonuk

The first 10 minutes were so good,especially that first attack,I had my hopes up.Overall it was an ok movie up until the last ten minutes.Pretty predictable,really.I mean,you just know some problems are going to arise.(And why and how did they plant acres and acres of corn without making a sound?) The way the film is resolved was a real let-down for me.Kudos to Emily Blunt and Millicent Simmonds.

April 12,2018 | Unregistered Commenterken s.

Oh yeah,and the completely superfluous subplot of the old people really bothered me.It should have been completely jettisoned.Wouldn't the monsters have heard the first gunshot?How did they all manage to avoid meeting up with each other for nearly a year and a half of living right next to each other?And no one acts particularly surprised to see each other.

April 12,2018 | Unregistered Commenterken s.

When I see a horror movie i'll always measure it against the benchmarks of horror Jaws,Alien,The Shining,The Exorcist,Rosemary's Baby etc,will I revisit years later and multiple times,the answer was no,neat concept,great Lead female,too many jump scares of the old variety and when is someone going to pull a Giger and show us a monster that's otherworldy and not over familiar.

April 12,2018 | Unregistered Commentermarkgordonuk

Totally agree that the worldbuilding isn't great.It does fall apart a bit if you pick at it.That being said,gender norms?And the comparisons to Get Out?Completely lost me.

April 12,2018 | Unregistered Commenterchasm301

I felt there were some lame attempts to hide the film's gender norms that were really frustrating to watch.For instance,when going hunting it's implied that Krasinki chooses his son over his daughter because he can't quite forgive the latter,and there's also the scene where Blunt tells her son he needs to step up and take care of her when she gets old.I just felt the gender roles were incredibly dated and were a disservice to the film's greatest assets: Blunt and Simmonds.They deserved better.

April 12,2018 | Unregistered CommenterDavid

I'm not quite as down on this as you are,but I didn't fall in love,either.When it's right,it's phenomenal;when it's wrong,it's really distracting.That silo scene really threw me for a loop,for example,and made me think of a different film with a similar scene that was mercilessly mocked for doing that exact gag.It's not that A Quiet Place is bad,I just feel like I've seen most of the scares and bits done better in other films.

April 13,2018 | Unregistered CommenterRobert G

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