This article contains A Quiet Place spoilers.
Rarely seen but relentlessly ubiquitous as a presence throughout John Krasinski’s A Quiet Place, the aliens, or “monsters,” of the film are inescapable. When the movie begins, the world has already fallen to ruin, and only a smattering of survivors populate desolate landscapes, holding out all hope that they shall not make a single noise to earn the swift and sudden death of creatures from another world. (Presumably, this sudden addition to natural selection has taken out all snorers on the planet.)
Yet even though we know more than enough about the creatures, we barely get a glimpse of them, and understand even less of how they appeared on our third rock from the sun. This is of course by design. Still, there are some clear basics established.
As the film opens with an elegantly designed shot of Krasinski’s Lee staring for likely the millionth time at headlines announcing the end of the world on old newspapers sprawled across his desk, we are given a clear understanding that they are likely an alien species that arrived at this world with an urge to kill everyone on it… while saving the noble men and women who operated printing presses for last. It also confirms these creatures are not supernatural but of a science fiction design, which helps us understand their presence a little more clearly.
As the film slowly unpacks, we eventually get glimpses of the creature. Reminiscent to the narrative structure of Steven Spielberg’s Jaws and Ridley Scott’s Alien, we do not get a good look at the beastie of death until the end of the film. But even at the midpoint, when Millicent Simmonds’ Regan is almost devoured by one in a cornfield, we are allowed a glimpse at their intricate physiology. Blind and brutal, the beasts rely on what appears to be super-sonic hearing of fantastically evolved ears, which are protected by a sensitive piece of flesh that opens up, allowing viewers to see the full inner-workings of the orifice.
Intriguingly, when I sat down with Andrew Form and Bradley Fuller, the producers of A Quiet Place, they even wondered if they had shown the monsters too soon in that sequence. Noting that the audience does not even get this visual of the creature’s ear until the 42-minute mark, Form is still interested in whether they were giving too much of the creature away that early in the film.
“We talked about how much do you actually want to see it, and you talk about Jaws and you talk about all these movies, and you have an opening where if you blink, you don’t see him,” Form says. “Like it’s off-camera in one scene, [but] it does not not show up. The connection with Regan is really the first time that you see it, and that scene could have been longer, and there could have been more shots, and these are choices we made where we thought, ‘Okay, let’s connect them, see a little bit here;’ you’re over there and he’s kind of blurry in the background. Obviously, you go into his ear and you get a really good look there, but then he runs off and he’s gone after that.”
For Form, it does not become “crystal clear until the last seven minutes of the movie” what exactly this family, and their audience, is dealing with. But that does not mean that there weren’t those discussions. Both producers said the creature design process went all the way from before pre-production until about post-production, with the filmmakers refining and searching for the exact look of the beast, who was brought to life by Scott Farrar of the Transformers movies.
Nevertheless, there is more to this creature and world than we know; audiences are allotted merely a hint about it, so that we draw our own conclusions. For like the xenomorph in Scott’s Alien, which was a star-beast dread in 1979 years before a sequel even defined it as a “xenomorph,” the threat is at its most menacing when it remains a mystery.
“We have a ton of backstory, and all these questions and answers,” Kransinski told Den of Geek in a separate interview. “It was actually with my production designer that we tried to get all the answers in the sets. Because one of the things I learned early on in my career is, one of the heads of marketing of a movie I did said, ‘The biggest misconception Hollywood has is audiences are stupid. They actually want to be challenged and they don’t want a lot of information fed to them.’ So I took a chance on this one.”
Krasinski has since further elaborated on the creatures’ backstory while discussing the film with Syfy Wire. As according to the writer-director, “They’re an evolutionary perfect machine. The idea is, if they grew up on a planet that had no humans and no light, then they don’t need eyes, they can only hunt by sound. They also develop a way to protect themselves from everything else – that’s why they’re bulletproof… The other idea was it’s also the reason why they were able to survive… the explosion of their planet and then survive on these meteorites. Until they open themselves up to be vulnerable, they’re completely invulnerable.”
While watching it most moviegoers may not even have understood how invulnerable they are, but we had more than enough to be absolutely terrified of what happens when it ends up in the same room as a newborn babe.
A Quiet Place is in theaters now.