“In a post-apocalyptic world, a family is forced to live in silence while hiding from monsters with ultra-sensitive hearing.” — IMDb
Anyone who knows me well probably knows I’m a huge fan of The Office (the American version). I’ve probably seen at least the first seven seasons over a hundred times, no joke. I’ve seen glimpses of John Krasinski in non-comedy projects but this is the first feature film of his where I’ve been able to see him fully embody a more dramatic role and I’m really psyched to see that he has some serious range. I was even more psyched that not only did he star in this but he directed it and even had a hand in writing the screenplay, which was adapted from a spec script started in 2014 by Scott Beck and Bryan Woods (who, together, started the production company Bluebox Films). They had actually toyed with the idea of developing it into part of the Cloverfield franchise but I’m really glad they opted to keep it as a standalone project.
I was super pleased with the film overall. I thought it was really clever all the way through, with lots of interesting details and subtleties. The acting was great and, because of the nature of the story — with the family needing to be completely silent at all times — we are forced to really focus deeply and watch every single movement and facial expression, which made it an intense watching experience. It was also super emotional, which isn’t the most common thing for a horror movie but something I always really appreciate.
** SPOILERS! **
The two things that pop out immediately upon starting this movie are, firstly, the deafening quietness. For the first few minutes you literally think maybe the sound on your TV is messed up or that your ears are clogged because there is NOTHING to be heard. Second is the sky-high tension. It’s not easy in the slightest to stay that quiet, especially when your lives are in immediate danger, and when we first see Evelyn (Emily Blunt) struggling to silently spin pill bottles to aid to her sick son, it’s the first of many times that you hold your breath in anticipation. The whole movie is like that — every time you see something precariously balanced, or see a photo framed in glass on the wall, or see the possibility of any sound being made, you freeze. Heck, I even got stressed out when I made noise in my own livingroom.
As I mentioned above, the silence made this film such an intense sensory experience. Not only are we forced, in the best way, to really lock ourselves in and hyper-focus on every scene, but there is so much more emotion to be interpreted from facial expressions and body language. The family almost exclusively speaks in ASL — save a handful of scenes when they’re able to speak — so we get much of their communication in other ways, which is an impressive feat. Krasinski in particular is very expressive, but each character had their own take on this, which I loved.
There’s lots of emotion present, and not in a forced way, as I see way too often. It doesn’t feel like they added unnecessary drama or context out of obligation, or tried fruitlessly to flesh out characters, but rather the movie is truly more focused on the dynamics of their relationships and the deeper concept of family as a whole instead of simply creatures lurking in the woods. The scene with Evelyn and Lee slow dancing in the basement was just… a gut punch. A tender moment of love amidst frazzled attempts to survive. When Lee takes Marcus out to teach him survival skills and they have a moment of being able to yell behind the safe curtain of the rushing waterfall. And, of course, when Marcus is unable to hold back his scream of “Dad!!!” when Lee is thrown by the creature, and Lee sacrifices himself — with yet another gut-wrenching, blood-curdling scream after signing to Regan — to save his children. OOOOF. My goddamn heart.
As I also mentioned, it’s just SMART. There are so many little details to appreciate. Within the context of the story, there are things like them painting the safe spots to walk on the floor of the (obviously very creaky) farmhouse, or Lee laying down sand on top of crunchy leaves to make a quiet path outside. Throughout the first half of the movie I’m wondering “how the HELL are they planning to bring a loud-ass baby into this reality?” but they thought of that, too, with the soundproof bunker. The whole lighting set-up around the farm that can change from white to red in an emergency. From a directing standpoint, the fact that they hired Millicent Simmonds — who is deaf in real life — to play the deaf daughter was important.
It has TWO strong-ass women with Evelyn and Regan. Evelyn is literally hiding from and outsmarting one of the creatures while STAYING SILENT THROUGH RIPPLING CONTRACTIONS (her scream when Marcus finally sets off the fireworks outside was amazingly intense). Regan is the one who figures out the creatures’ weakness by figuring out their reaction to her hearing aid feedback. And the movie ending on the two of them, stoic as Evelyn cocks the shotgun, is not only badass but promises a fun sequel (which is already in the works).
Side note to say that the creature, especially when we see more up-close shots of its face kind of unfurling like a flower, reminds me a whole lot of a demogorgon (which I’m cool with, Stranger Things 4 lyfe). Also, my only minor complaint may be the use of music (which was used fairly lightly, but still). John Krasinski has spoken of his choice of a classical soundtrack, saying he wanted viewers to remain familiar with a mainstream film and not a “silence experiment”, but I think it would have been SUPER interesting to keep it totally silent aside from those rare, amplified moments (the creature zeroing in on a kitchen timer ticking, for example), the few moments they were able to speak, and that Neil Young slow dance in the basement. Just my two cents.
Overall, a fantastic movie that exceeded my (already high) expectations!
Rating: 8.5/10 | Director: John Krasinski | Writer: Bryan Woods (story & screenplay), Scott Beck (story & screenplay), John Krasinski (screenplay) | Music: Marco Beltrami | Cinematography: Charlotte Bruus Christensen | Starring: Emily Blunt, John Krasinski, Millicent Simmonds, Noah Jupe