“A Quiet Place” is a fear-inducing thrill ride

John Krasinski’s “A Quiet Place” will make viewers grip their armrests with fear like no other film released in 2018 so far.

Set in rural, post-apocalyptic New York, in the year 2020, most of Earth’s population has been killed by fearsome monsters that hunt entirely through sound. Any verbal speech, heavy footstep or sudden clang will send them sprinting, full speed, toward the sound’s location, spelling death for the unfortunate souls they meet upon arrival. Lee Abbott, played by Krasinski, his wife Evelyn, played by Emily Blunt, and their three kids try their best to survive, given their life-and-death circumstances. They’ve established certain techniques to ensure their survival, including communicating through sign language and laying down sand paths to minimize the sounds of their footsteps. However, it’s impossible to live in complete silence. These creatures are crafty and bloodthirsty, stalking their prey with menace before exploding in brutal flurries of animalistic carnage.   

Despite a ridiculous premise, “A Quiet Place” features some of the most frighteningly tense scenes put to the silver screen in quite some time. The film targets a universal sense of fear and suspense that will leave audience members glued to their seats, wholly enveloped in the onscreen intensity.

The movie’s effective nature is largely from the well-developed characters and Krasinski’s impressive filmmaking.

Krasinski’s determined, empathetic Lee will do anything to ensure his family’s survival. Every risk he takes is to help his family live to see another day. Krasinski gives a powerhouse performance, speaking volumes with meaningful facial expressions without relying on dialogue. His chemistry with Blunt’s character feels authentic, as they are an actual couple offscreen.

It’s impossible for viewers not to sympathize with Blunt’s character. Evelyn does whatever she can to let her children live a normal, ordinary life. It’s touching and heartbreaking to see a character trying to make the best of a horribly dangerous situation.

The children are entirely convincing and easy to empathize with. The film perfectly conveys horror and desolation through these characters’ young, innocent eyes. Millicent Simmonds, who portrays the deaf Regan Abbott in the film, is also deaf in real life. This lends her performance an extra layer of authenticity. Krasinski often ingeniously shows the world through her perspective, ratcheting up suspense by eliminating sound.

Contrary to other contemporary horror films, “A Quiet Place” is principally about one family trying to survive. The film stresses the importance of family and love over everything else. The most emotional moments of the film feature the characters interacting with each other as a family unit, sometimes around a dinner table or embracing. These peaceful, heartfelt moments build viewers’ attachment to this family, making it all the more distressing when they’re in mortal danger.

Sound plays a monumental role in “A Quiet Place,” becoming a character in itself. The film’s sound design is impeccable, creating a juxtaposition between silence and noise different than most others in the genre. Everything viewers need to know is shown through characters’ expressions and actions. It’s wonderful to see a film respect the audience in this way. Every scene and every second serves a purpose in developing characters and building suspense.

The only notable flaws in “A Quiet Place” have to do with a few unnecessary jump scares too similar to other horror films. There’re only so many times I can see a hand lurch from a shadow before I get annoyed.

Without spoiling anything, I would have also appreciated a stronger resolution with one more scene. As it stands, the ending feels somewhat abrupt.

Unfortunately, as is too often the case in modern movie theaters, some people find the need to add their own, personal soundtrack and commentary to the film they’re watching. As much of “A Quiet Place” is without spoken dialogue, the rustle of a candy wrapper, an obnoxious snicker or dropped iPhone will break viewers’ immersion in the film, creating potential hostility in the theater. As a result, whether or not viewers have a fulfilling experience watching “A Quiet Place” will largely be determined by the manners of other audience members.

If watching with a crowd who respects artfully crafted cinema, the film offers a fully transportive, stunningly realized work of white-knuckled terror and entertainment that shouldn’t be missed.