New York is not a quiet place.
If you’ve ever been on a packed subway train while some jagoff yells “Move in! Move in!,” you’ve surely pictured a vicious monster biting his freakin’ head off.
That’s why New Yorkers should slobber over “A Quiet Place,” the superb horror movie about an Earth overrun by scaly beasts that obliterate anyone who makes a sound.
The clever film is set at a family farmhouse somewhere in upstate New York (the parents are played by John Krasinski and real-life wife Emily Blunt), where a fake Post front page is prominently displayed in the basement. “IT’S SOUND! Stay Silent, Stay Alive,” the headline reads.
That’s all the clan of five knows, and that’s all we know, too. The movie never says where the monsters, or even the family, came from. We meet only one other person, but the rest of the planet could be kaput. We just don’t know.
And ignorance is bliss! The mysterious circumstances are what make this horror film so taut and terrifying from start to finish. When creature features over-explain, such as in the chatty, later “Alien” movies, they tie narrative knots that confuse viewers, instead of exciting them.
But Krasinski, also the director and co-writer, lets his beasts be beastly — they look like colossal praying mantis zombies — and fills the rest of the movie with the compelling struggles of a family to love each other, live their lives and pipe down amid constant peril.
The three kids, who look between 5 and 12 years old, ratchet up the tension when they wander through the eerie cornfields and forests. Because children’s favorite hobbies include crying, jumping, yelling, whining, playing and most other things that aren’t quiet contemplation, you constantly fear for their lives. But these kids, for the most part, keep their traps shut. The daughter (Millicent Simmonds) is deaf, and she’s helped her family stay alive because they can all communicate in sign language.
Since making a medium-level noise, such as dropping a kitchen pot or even having a conversation at normal volume, is like driving off a cliff, it’s rather unfortunate that Blunt’s character is pregnant. A woman’s cries while giving birth aren’t voluntary, nor are her newborn’s cries. This part of the plot is a bit of a stretch.
The monsters, we’re told, have been slumming it on the farm for over a year. And, at the beginning of the movie, the family raids a drugstore for provisions. Couldn’t they have looted some canned soup — and condoms?
Even so, “A Quiet Place” is a jalapeño popper of a movie — fast, filling and punchy — and a likable throwback to the films of M. Night Shyamalan. The good ones, anyway. The real trauma comes after the credits roll, and the audience is forced to re-enter the auditory hellscape that is New York.