Welcome to Monsoon-a-day
Where I watch and review a movie a day. Or whenever I fucking feel like it.
When director Jules Dassin was creating (what would eventually become his masterpiece) Rififi, everyone associated with the making of the picture thought he was out of his mind for even suggesting that 25% of the film be made completely silent. The film’s composer even took it upon himself to write a grand piece of music because he knew the idea was a fool’s errand.
After Dassin showed him the film twice, once with the score and once without, the composer begged him not to use it. That 32 minute long silent heist would prove to be so monumentally influential, horror directors would spend the next 60 years trying to imitate it.
Producers of the film Wait Until Dark, created their entire ad campaign based around the films almost silent ending: ‘During the last eight minutes of this picture the theatre will be darkened to the legal limit, to heighten the terror of the breathtaking climax which takes place in nearly total darkness on the screen. If there are sections where smoking is permitted, those patrons are respectfully requested not to jar the effect by lighting up during this sequence. And of course, no one will be seated at this time.‘ It was a massive success.
Tremors built its entire premise around being as silent as possible and recent films like Hush and Don’t Breathe used the lack of sound to amplify tension but A Quiet Place is the first to create an entire world around the concept.
When you think of post apocalyptic films, you mentally run down the usual suspects and they’re probably all science fiction action films. The Matrix, The Terminator, Mad Max, Waterworld (that was a joke. Nobody thinks about Waterworld) but outside of the zombie genre, horror films usually never get that ambitious.
A Quiet Place is an original take on the post apocalyptic genre that replaces the over played undead with monsters that hunt by sound. Even the most miniscule of noises will alert them and that almost certainly means immediate death. Which in turn, makes sound the real villain of the film.
Besides its intriguing premise, the films biggest strength is its world building. Director John Krasinski (along with writers Bryan Woods and Scott Beck) put a lot of effort into crafting a believable world from the details on up. Characters eat on what look to be palm leaves and eat rice to eliminate cutlery, play a board game with felt pieces in replace of the normal plastic tokens, mark their paths with sound eliminating sand and have various other tricks to live in a world of complete silence.
But that premise, as clever as it is, leaves the film open to massive leaps of faith in the audience. You’re going to have to be willing to suspend your critical faculties and sacrifice any realism and logic the film has for the sake of your enjoyment.
There are scenes in this film that only serve to advance the plot, which border on the ridiculous. Without giving too much away; there’s a tragedy in the beginning scene that’s the basis for every character motivation from then on but taken as a scene that’s supposed to create dramatic weight, it’s too unbelievable to be taken seriously. In reality, the parents wouldn’t have let their extremely young child stray too far behind them nor would the sister allow him to have a toy that creates the thing that would fucking kill them all.
The film wants this moment to be the most important scene but it doesn’t earn it. Because the daughter doesn’t listen to her parents, it unintentionally makes me dislike her for the rest of the film. It also makes me hyper aware of character motivation and logic. It’s over 80 days into this nightmare scenario and the film wants me to believe that the kid would risk his life to play with a cheap plastic toy. I don’t buy it.
Now, if you had the daughter be in charge of setting up some sort of sound producing distraction and (unbeknownst to them) it fails, that I would’ve believed. It would’ve made more sense why their guard was down and it would’ve given the daughter guilt without sacrificing her likability.
There’s also minor annoyances such as the kids knocking over a lantern while they’re playing a game, when the film later establishes that they have a bunker that’s almost sound proof, the son finding out that the river masks their noise even though he should’ve known that a year ago, the monsters magical ability to immediately be right on top of you once you make a noise but it never establishes how good their hearing is or if they’re just always just fucking around their house, a logic destroying scene involving a corn silo and a newborn baby that’s more silent than Marcel Marceau.
They also never explain how the hell they have electricity without generators but even I can overlook some nitpicks. As a film that plays an audience like a violin, it works wonders but once you think about it for more than a minute, it almost falls apart.
For the most part, a director’s job is not much different than the titular Wizard of Oz. He has to razzle dazzle you with smoke and pyrotechnics but once you notice the man behind the curtain, you see it’s nothing more than cheap parlor tricks meant to distract you and nothing else. Krasinski does an admirable job at distracting you with spectacle but once you peak behind the curtain, the magic starts to fade.