I don’t enjoy horror films for the most part but I was glued to the screen for A Quiet Place, a truly scary movie that’s artfully executed. John Krasinski directed, co-wrote the script, and stars in the film with his wife Emily Blunt. All we know at the outset is that alien creatures have decimated the human population and are activated by noise making it essential for Krasinski, Blunt and their children to maintain silence as much as possible. As it happens, they already know sign language because their daughter is deaf. She is played (beautifully) by Millicent Simmonds, who is actually deaf and appeared in last year’s Wonderstruck.

I can’t remember the last film that made such ingenious use of sound—and silence. Kudos to sound designers Ethan Van der Ryn and Erik Aadahl, who worked in tandem with composer Marco Beltrami to manipulate our emotions scene by scene. Krasinski leads us through a series of frightening (but not graphic) set pieces where various members of his family are placed in peril. Following the template of King Kong, he keeps his repulsive creatures dark, distant, and dangerous, parceling out mere glimpses for quite some time. It’s a tribute to visual effects supervisor Scott Farrar that even when we do get to see them for more than a flash they retain their gruesome impact.

Bryan Woods and Scott Beck fashioned a story about a family that must remain strong to survive…and Krasinski wrings every drop of tension out of the screenplay. A Quiet Place is a thoroughly relatable thriller laced with horror-movie tropes. Perhaps that’s why it works so well even for a wimp like me. By the way, the movie runs 90 minutes and is thoroughly satisfying. Other filmmakers would do well to take note of this.

Leonard Maltin is one of the world’s most respected film critics and historians. He is best known for his widely-used reference work Leonard Maltin’s Movie Guide and its companion volume Leonard Maltin’s Classic Movie Guide, now in its third edition, as well as his thirty-year run on television’s Entertainment Tonight. He teaches at the USC School of Cinematic Arts and appears regularly on Reelz Channel and Turner Classic Movies. His books include The 151 Best Movies You’ve Never Seen, Of Mice and Magic: A History of American Animated Cartoons, The Great Movie Comedians, The Disney Films, The Art of the Cinematographer, Movie Comedy Teams, The Great American Broadcast, and Leonard Maltin’s Movie Encyclopedia. He served two terms as President of the Los Angeles Film Critics Association, is a voting member of the National Film Registry, and was appointed by the Librarian of Congress to sit on the Board of Directors of the National Film Preservation Foundation. He hosted and co-produced the popular Walt Disney Treasures DVD series and has appeared on innumerable television programs and documentaries. He has been the recipient of awards from the American Society of Cinematographers, the Telluride Film Festival, Anthology Film Archives, and San Diego’s Comic-Con International. Perhaps the pinnacle of his career was his appearance in a now-classic episode of South Park. (Or was it Carmela consulting his Movie Guide on an episode of The Sopranos?) He holds court at Follow him on Twitter and Facebook; you can also listen to him on his weekly podcast: Maltin on Movies. — [Artwork by Drew Friedman]

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April 2024