SHH! Arley Sorg and Josh Pearce Discuss A Quiet Place
In this post-apocalyptic film, a couple raises their family while being stalked by blind monsters that hunt entirely by sound. Silence is the only defense, and any noise is fatal.
Lee Abbott (John Krasinski) and his wife Evelyn (Emily Blunt) hide out in a farmhouse with their deaf daughter Regan (Millicent Simmonds) and son Marcus (Noah Jupe), surviving by building soundproofed shelters, fishing in a nearby river, and scavenging in town. Lee struggles to connect with Regan, who is guilt-stricken by a recent family tragedy, and a pregnant Evelyn prepares to give birth.
Everything is done as silently as possible: communicating by sign language, walking around barefoot, soundproofing underground rooms where, theoretically, one can make more noise.
Arley: Aliens meets The Walking Dead meets Pitch Black meets Don’t Breathe, kind of.
While the monster effects were cool and the basic concept is interesting (bearing some similarities to Josh Malerman’s Bird Box), the movie overall suffers from problematic writing, especially in terms of questionable aspects of the creatures and many of the characters’ decisions. Viewers who demand rigorous attention to detail will be disappointed.
The initial world building has some clever storytelling devices but these are undermined by heavy-handed infodumping such as big newspaper headlines announcing “Monsters” and “They Use Sound!” and a whiteboard in the Abbotts’s house with three things written in all caps, including “What is their weakness?”
Josh: I didn’t need it explained. Just show me someone saying, “SHH!” and then a monster that eats anything that makes noise, and that’s it. I’ve got it from there.
The movie focuses on daily life and interpersonal storylines for the first two-thirds or so, then switches tone from suspense to more action, with several scenes that looked like they could have been lifted straight from the Jurassic Park franchise. The interpersonal storylines fade as scene after scene the viewer is asked to suspend belief a little bit more, inconsistencies in world building pile up, and unlikely scenarios play out.
Josh: I liked the middle half hour as a horror movie. The silence really amplified the opportunity for jump scares because the tiniest sounds startled the audience. But it’s essentially a flat arc and then a cheesy Hollywood action movie ending.
Arley: When the monsters start coming into the house after she gives birth, it’s no longer a high-intensity tension-driven horror movie.
Josh: I thought it was going to be all about the birth, giving silent birth and keeping the baby quiet. We’ve just had a baby and I know that’s impossible. And what I felt most was not suspense or terror or horror or tension, it was stress over keeping the baby quiet. The whole time I (as a new dad) was like “Who’s watching the baby? Why isn’t the baby crying? Feed the baby. Where’s the baby now?” So my emotional reaction to the movie was entirely after the baby was born. Before that point, I was bored.
Arley (laughing): Really? I liked the first two-thirds as a horror movie.
There are four main characters (Josh: five, if you count the baby), but the standout is the daughter Regan. She’s emotional and conflicted, caught between a desire to take on more responsibility in the family and the weight of her past decisions. Some of the writing is not quite believable in terms of the actions she takes, decisions she makes, and the way she reacts to things, but Simmonds’ performance goes far to sell each moment.
Josh: I felt like she was the only one they tried to give a personality to.
Arley: I thought she was great. I believed in her sincerity and I got caught up in her character. The problems with her character are in the writing. I liked the emoting without words. I thought that aspect of the acting was really good, at least in the beginning. The dude who played the dad, I really bought his drive to protect his family, which sold the danger to me.
Josh: I didn’t like him as much because I still associate John Krasinski with Jim from The Office—goofy and not really matching this role, even with his rugged outdoorsman beard. Also, his character kept making dumb decisions: bringing your entire family to the store, living inside the house instead of always being underground, banning the daughter from the basement for no apparent reason, alienating her when she’s the oldest kid and you need all the help you can get (and why are they leaving the doors open everywhere?). I guess all the characters (except for the baby) made dumb decisions but Krasinski gets a special call-out for this because he wrote the movie. And directed it.
Some of the other characters didn’t feel fleshed out beyond being living plot devices. Evelyn Abbott was played really well by Emily Blunt but her primary functions were being Lee’s sounding board, doing laundry, and having a baby.
Josh: I didn’t find it believable that she gave birth silently and kept the baby silent. That bathtub should’ve been way bloodier. Should have looked like a murder scene. And it would have taken longer. There wasn’t even time for the placenta to come out.
Arley: But it was written by men.
Josh: And it’s rated PG-13.
Arley: I thought that as a mom in an apocalyptic setting she would’ve been doing more, would’ve been more active. She was basically Krasinski’s sidekick until it was time for her to get hurt.
Josh: I don’t think she’d be running around right after birth. That reminded me of the Prometheus movie when the main character performs a laser abortion on herself, staples her stomach back together, gives herself a shot, and immediately starts running around fighting aliens. Adrenaline is a motherfucker, I guess.
One short-lived character only appeared long enough to demonstrate the dangers of the world and to amplify the conflict between Lee and Regan.
Josh: What do we think about the son, Marcus?
(Simultaneously) Josh: I don’t remember shit about him. Arley: Nondescript.
Josh: There just had to be another character for the dad to do stuff with, someone to go to the river with, someone to be protective of besides the daughter who’s fighting with him. He could have been a dog.
Arley: Here’s my biggest complaint…
Josh: I have so many. Well, you said “biggest.”
Arley: …the monster smashed a TV even though it has carnivorous features, which makes no sense as an evolutionary thing. It should hunt but all it does is destroy.
Josh: The monsters make little sense. How do they distinguish noises in what is to them a new and foreign environment? Why are these creatures so heavily armored? You know what has armor? Prey. Turtles.
Josh: Right. NOT CARNIVORES.
Arley: They make more sense if they hide, and then swoop in and kill. Like wolf spiders.
Let’s talk about socks.
Josh: Why didn’t the characters wear socks? Or moccasins?
Arley: You can get softer-soled shoes. You’re just gonna cut up your feet, running around outside.
Josh: Laying down sand and gravel or walking on it makes noise. Louder than walking around in socks.
We won’t go through our laundry list of problems but let’s just say it’s a long list. We disagreed about a number of things, but we agreed that the ending was terrible. Not only was it unlikely and technically problematic, but the final note was over-the-top, breaking theme and shattering tone.
Josh: I’m glad it ended where it did, though, without dragging it out even more.
Arley: I blame [producer] Michael Bay for the ending.
Josh: I thought A Quiet Place wasn’t bad for a horror movie, but then I also think horror movies have a lower bar than other genres because fear is an easier emotion to elicit than sadness or awe or happiness, especially in a dark, loud environment like a movie theater.
Arley: I liked the concept. It’s not new, exactly, but I still liked it. Would be interesting to see a world based on a silent post-apocalyptic setting that wasn’t so insular. You see the other homesteads lighting their fires and it would be cool to explore the interactions between other survivors because it’s not so dog-eat-dog in this world.
Potentially a fun horror-action flick, to a point, but definitely don’t take it too seriously.
Directed by John Krasinski
Written by Bryan Woods, Scott Beck & John Krasinski
Starring John Krasinski, Emily Blunt, Millicent Simmonds, Noah Jupe, and Cade Woodward
(Produced in part by Michael Bay)
JOSH PEARCE, Assistant Editor, started working at Locus in 2016. He studied creative writing at SFSU and has sold short stories and poems to a variety of speculative fiction magazines. A Bay Area native, he currently lives in the East Bay with his wife and son and spends way too much time on Twitter: @fictionaljosh. One time, Ken Jennings signed his chest.
ARLEY SORG, Associate Editor, grew up in England, Hawaii, and Colorado. He studied Asian Religions at Pitzer College. He lives in Oakland, and usually writes in local coffee shops. A 2014 Odyssey Writing Workshop graduate, he is soldering together a novel, has thrown a few short stories into orbit, and hopes to launch more.
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