A Quiet Place is the rare horror movie that captures the public's imagination. Its combination of aliens, gore and solitude give it an appeal that, as Vanity Fair puts it, “transcends genre”. What gives John Krasinski’s hit film its edge is the sense of realism. Each character is a complex, admirable role model; especially to the progressives of the millennial generation.
While mainstream horror peddles the sensationalised, theatrical scares popular in the films of James Wan (The Conjuring, Insidious) and Blumhouse Productions (Paranormal Activity), the founding elements of A Quiet Place offer desensitised viewers a taste of authenticity. The film chooses showing over telling in the hope that its proximity to truth will speak for itself. Krasinski and Emily Blunt, real-life married parents playing those roles for their on-screen children, bring an honesty without posturing. Hearing-impaired Millicent Simmonds shines as their deaf eldest child, marking another victory for authenticity by eschewing the miscasting often seen when it comes to disabled representation.
The film centres on the Abbott family in the near future. A blind alien species that relies on sound to hunt has infested the world and fed on the population. The family are lonely survivors due to the fact that they have successfully evolved, not through savage hunting prowess but through resourcefulness and self-education; Simmonds’ character’s deafness means that the family is fluent in sign language. Life-saving in close quarters but useless over long distance, this constriction of communication draws into sharp relief the importance of it; the well-oiled Abbott family manage to express a lot in absolute silence. The dire situation emphasises the uselessness of tired, typical family values of stoicism and resentment prized by the Baby Boomer generation, and instead highlights the importance of emotional attentiveness and availability that a younger generation is moving towards. Millennials may be called 'sensitive' and 'fragile' for sticking with these values, but A Quiet Place acknowledges how crucial they are.
The film does what others shy away from: making moves towards unfiltered representation. The family members aren’t even anti-stereotypes; they represent a refreshing absence of them, and in each character we see a rejection and re-steering of a horror trope. The young son played by Noah Jupe doesn’t lash out in frustration, but seeks to comfort and unite those dear to him. The hearing-impaired daughter isn’t made uncanny or painfully vulnerable by her condition. The mother giving birth is soaked in her own blood without being exaggerated into something too fragile or too monstrous. In a show-stealing performance, Krasinski’s role as the father is no broodingly macho Tom Cruise in War of the Worlds or Brad Pitt in World War Z, films in which families are complications, symbols and footnotes. Instead he’s a patient, empathetic, fiercely selfless paternal figure who is missing from the screen all too frequently.
By opting out of established Hollywood templates, A Quiet Place refuses to play into unconscious biases and presumptions about characters based on their defining traits. A millennial audience, sick and tired of seeing husbands disregard their wives’ warnings about Ouija boards or cursed amulets, have been vocal in their calls for better entertainment. Without a word, Krasinski delivers.