Horror is a detail-oriented genre. So often the effect of frightening audiences is achieved through the smallest gestures: a swinging light bulb, a creaking floorboard. The film A Quiet Place is an ingenious riff on this phenomenon, turning every last sign and hum into an occasion for fear. The film opens on a familiar post-apocalyptic landscape. The streets of a small American town are abandoned, derelict cars on the side of the road. A family, the Abbotts, makes their way through a pharmacy. They are being preternaturally quiet, walking in their bare feet, communicating with each other through sign language. Soon we put the clues together. A group of creatures are in the surrounding area, hunting the local humans. The creatures are blind, and compensate for their lack of sight with an extraordinary sense of hearing. They can detect the faintest sound, and to survive, the Abbotts live in virtual silence on their farm. It’s a great setup, well-executed, and I recommend any fan of the genre to check it out.
Yet I couldn’t help but pick up on a familiar sense of distrust. I was homeschooled, and learned to regard the world outside the home as fraught with decadence. I recognized a similar sense of distrust in the film’s insistence that, in a time of crisis, all social ties but the family must be disregarded. It’s a rather pessimistic viewpoint, one that the film doesn’t really question. But still: it’s really fun!
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