One of my favorite things about horror is how subjective it is. What scares me on a primal level—what truly has the ability to keep me up at night, playing through various “what if” scenarios—might mean little to the next person. Sure, as horror fans, we can all appreciate what makes a film enjoyable or not, but horror films have the ability to live with us forever by tapping into fears so deep inside us that we perhaps didn’t even realize they were fears of ours. This is exactly what A Quiet Place has done to me. This is a film that will live with me forever, with its images and themes playing through my head on an endless loop, alongside so many other horror classics of years past.
When I started A Quiet Place, I had no idea how accurate of a title that would be. The limited dialogue and prolonged silence created a mood that was tense from start to finish, and made the jump scares work in a way that other horror films would long for. While this film does feature a monster (or three monsters more accurately), the real horror lies in the post-civilization world in which our main characters live. It’s a world where anything besides silence can mean instant death. Let’s stop and think about this for a moment. It would be bad enough to see the world you know fall to ruins in no time flat, but to live a life where any sound at all would bring about your demise makes you appreciate all of the sounds we take for granted. A world without laughter, music, birds chirping or conversation. Some of life’s greatest joys are all gone, and now, survival is all that matters.
Parenthood and, more specifically, fears shared by parents are a strong theme in this film. In the beginning of the film, Lee and Evelyn Abbott have their three children with them as they’re searching through an abandoned store for supplies. When their 4-year-old son picks up a toy plane, Lee tells him to set it down due to the noise it makes and takes the batteries out of the toy. As the parents turn to leave, eldest daughter Regan, who is deaf and the reason the family knows sign language, gives her little brother the toy back. Behind her back, the youngest son puts the batteries back in the toy, which in the next scene leads to his heartbreaking death. As a parent, there is no greater fear than not being able to protect your children. Watching Lee Abbott (John Krasinski) run towards his child, only to see him destroyed by a monster before his eyes, was a dramatized version of every parent’s worst nightmare. As I watched the aftermath of that scene, I couldn’t help but think of my 4-year-old son and how difficult it would be to keep him quiet in this new reality, and then also, how devastated I would be if it were me running towards him, unable to save him.
From that moment on, I felt completely in tune with the character of Lee. I understood his pain, despite never knowing the like. His motivation, his demeanor, his often singular focus made absolute sense to me. Lee personified the characteristics many fathers, myself included, would display in a situation like this. In those moments where Lee softened, I couldn’t help but feel genuinely happy for him. When his wife Evelyn, now pregnant (more on that to come), took out one of her earbuds and put it in Lee’s ear with “Harvest Moon” providing the perfect soundtrack for a slow dance, it was a perfect analogy for a problem many parents face. All too often once we have kids and the pressures of life kick in, we stop making time for our partner, the person with whom we chose to build a life. Love gets overshadowed by responsibility and that slow dance was a gentle reminder—from a film which really is all about parenthood—to not forget the person with whom we chose to go on this journey called life.
When the audience first sees that Evelyn is pregnant, it’s a shock. I know my reaction was one of disbelief just because of the obvious reason: the sounds a newborn makes. Then there’s also the issue of having a child so soon after losing a child. It forces the audience to remember the son they lost and keeps that pain relevant instead of moving onto the next plot point. Eldest daughter Regan has a distant relationship with her father throughout the film, which she assumes is because her father blames her for her brother’s death. For a film that is largely silent, they did an amazing job of keeping these very heavy emotional issues alive through not only sign language but also body language and facial expressions.
The true horror of this film is the setting and the situation, but that’s not to take anything away from the film’s monsters. Lightening quick and brutal as can be, the film does not shy away from showing them in action. In a film with such a heavy emotional story, I did question how much of the monsters we would see. Would they be a threat we heard more than we saw? Would they go for a “less is more” style in terms of actually seeing the beast? The answers to those questions were No and No. A Quiet Place did not shy away from letting us see the film’s antagonists up-close and personal. Considering how easy it can often be for a serious film to have less than scary monsters, which is the quickest way to kill an audience’s interest in a film, it was a brave choice. These creatures were scary and mysterious, giving the film a great second layer under the family’s emotional arc.
The conclusion of the film did not disappoint in the slightest either, as the delivery of the baby was filled with tension and lead to the final conflict. We got to see closure between father and daughter and Evelyn’s words to Lee prior to the final sequence of events, “Who are we if we can’t protect them”, again drove home the film’s theme of parental fears and motivations. Being a parent might be the scariest thing anyone has ever done, and this film—through a post-civilization, monster-filled world—really made you think about what it means to be a parent. Watching Lee’s face as he made the decision to give his life to save his children was as powerful a scene as I’ve seen in any film in a while. Watching him sign to his daughter that he’s always loved her brought tears to my eyes, and when he let out the yell that would summon the monster to take his life, I’m willing to bet a majority of parents watching pictured themselves in his position, knowing full well that they’d do the exact same thing.
A combined effort from the mother’s strength and the daughter’s desire to protect her family and redeem herself in her own eyes from her brother’s death ultimately lead to the destruction of the beast. We’re left wondering what happened to the surviving members of the Abbott family after their moment of triumph in a terrific ending to a highly enjoyable film. With news of a sequel in the works, one has to wonder if it will be about this family or others set in this same, terrifying world. Regardless of what happens in the future with any potential sequels, A Quiet Place is a film that will stand the test of time and one I will definitely watch again.