Until 2018, John Krasinski was best known for the US version of The Office and being married to Emily Blunt, with his only movie directorial credits being an adaptation of David Foster Wallace’s book Brief Interviews With Hideous Men and a romantic drama called The Hollars. So it came as a bit of a surprise when he pulled out of the bag one of the best horror movies of the year – of recent years in fact – with his high-concept creature feature A Quiet Place.
The premise is genius. Krasinski and Blunt play a couple with kids, living in a post-invasion world. Vicious, deadly creatures with super-hearing have taken over the planet – as long as the family remains perfectly silent they’ll be safe. But Blunt is pregnant and her oldest daughter is deaf…
Krasinksi’s world-building is impeccable. A quick tour of the family’s tricked out home and “war room” in the early scenes tells you everything you need to know about the invasion, the creatures and how the family has learned to live. Dialogue is sparse and most of the movie plays out in silence meaning the odd occasions when you do hear sounds are all the more shocking. Krasinski inverts the traditional piano-crash jump scare horror fans are used to: the musical score is soft and reassuring, it’s the noises that occur within their world we need to be fearful of.
A Quiet Place’s creatures were created by ILM with Krasinski and his team playing with ideas of what a perfectly evolved killing machine might look like. Inspiration came from prehistoric fish, black snakes and bats among other things to create a monster that had evolved past the need for eyes – and was all the scarier for it.
Outside the high concept and the perfectly timed scares, though, The Quiet Place is a movie full of heart. Krasinski wrote the screenplay with Scott Beck and Bryan Woods, and what resonated particularly for him was the theme of how far a parent would go to protect their family. Blunt had recently given birth to the couple’s second child at the time of writing, and what results is a movie that feels very personal and emotional. A Quiet Place is tense and stressful in the best possible way and is likely to leave you sobbing as much as shaking in your boots.
Blunt and Krasinski are the beating heart at the centre of the film, desperately trying to keep the family alive, though a special mention goes to Millicent Simmons, who plays the couple’s eldest daughter Regan. Deaf in real life, Simmons helped the cast learn the sign language they use throughout and delivers a particularly poignant performance as a frustrated teenage girl who can’t even slam the door when she’s mad at her folks.
Krasinski says he planned to make “a family drama that goes horribly wrong” – in doing so he created a film that really resonated with audiences. A surprise hit, the movie grossed over $340 million worldwide on a budget of just $17 million, with a sequel already greenlit. It’s a tribute to his skills as a writer/director/actor that an original genre movie found its way to sixth place in a very strong year for movies and marks Krasinski as one to watch with whatever he does next.