Horror Movies Reviews

‘A Quiet Place’ Is Rare Critics’ Darling that Delivers What Was Promised

A Quiet Place
Rated: PG-13
Runtime: 1 hour 30 minutes
Director: John Krasinki
Starring: Emily Blunt, John Krasinki, Millicent Simmonds, Noah Jupe, and Cade Woodward

If you’re a dedicated (or casual) horror fan like myself, odds are you’ve likely fallen victim to the “buzz phrase” marketing trend that’s become so prevalent in contemporary art-house horror, some recent examples being A24’s The Witch (2015) and It Comes at Night (2017). While these films are great by their own rights, there’s no doubt that efforts to market them to the general public resulted in a substantial rift between expectations and the reality in the audiences. As frustrating as films coming off of festival-circuit buzz can be, A Quiet Place is that rare, transparent case that delivers in spades what was promised by its bold early previews.

Evelyn (Emily Blunt) cautions her deaf daughter Regan (Millicent Simmonds) of the deadly creature closing in on them

A Quiet Place, directed by The Office alumni John Krasinki, is about the Abbott family’s struggle for survival in a post-apocalyptic world that has invaded by a species of extremely deadly alien predators that are attracted to sound. Over a period of roughly a year and a half, Lee (Krasinki) and Evelyn (Emily Blunt) do their best to protect their three children Beau (Cade Woodward), Marcus (Noah Jupe), and Regan (Millicent Simmonds), the last of whom is deaf, while still trying to provide them some semblance of a childhood. Things go from bad to worse when Evelyn, who becomes pregnant fairly early in the film, goes into labor while Lee and their eldest son are away on a supplies run, leading to an unfortunate chain of events that forces the family to have to deal with the creatures head on.

Clocking in at a lean 90 minutes, A Quiet Place wastes no time in establishing the hyper-effective tension and suspense, which is, ironically, amplified by the absence of noise in the film’s overall sound design. The Abbott family, in making sure they don’t attract the creatures, hardly make ever make any noise louder than an extremely faint whisper. Aside from a few circumstantial instances, they communicate with one another via sign language. The film pays a lot of attention to the details of how this family copes with their extreme circumstance, which is compelling in and of itself even when the creatures aren’t attacking them directly. The creatures are incredibly intimidating, and when we finally get a good look at them (which is about half-way to two-thirds through) none of the gravitas is lost like it often is other movies of the genre when the monster’s form is eventually (if at all) revealed. Of course, none of this would have been possible without Krasinki’s meticulous direction behind the camera. Krasinki does an excellent job of conveying exposition through contextual action rather than relying solely on a character having to literally spell everything out to the audience, which is so refreshing, especially in this genre. In terms of the acting, everyone brings their A-game, especially Emily Blunt, who gets put through the wringer in the second half of the film.

A Quiet Place is truly a masterwork of the genre; however despite all the things it does right, I couldn’t help but feel that something was missing. While films like The Witch or It Comes at Night, have little to no mass appeal (and understandably so), they were marketed as if they were because critics recognized them as being films with meaningful thematic depth, that also happened to occupy the horror genre. And depending on what the viewer looks for in movies in order for them to be “great”, thematic depth may or not even be a factor in coming to that verdict. But for me, for this kind of horror movie, that thematic depth is what boosts a very good film like A Quiet Place to the next level, like an It Comes at Night. All that aside though, A Quiet Place is easily one of the best mainstream horror flicks in years and is absolutely deserving of all its acclaim.

Horror Scale: 8.0/10

Movies Reviews

Heart, Spectacle, and Much-Needed Introspection Keeps ‘Ready Player One’ From Becoming Lazy Throwback Drab

Ready Player One
Rated: PG-13
Runtime: 2 hours 20 minutes
Director: Steven Spielberg
Starring: Tye Sheridan, Olivia Cooke, Ben Mendelsohn, Lena Waithe, and T.J. Miller

I’ll be upfront and admit that I am not a huge Steven Spielberg fan. Aside from his impeccable war films (i.e. Schindler’s List, Saving Private Ryan, and Munich), Spielberg’s magic has never really enchanted me the way a Tarantino or a Chris Nolan has. And I have to say the initial trailers for his latest film did not particularly entice me. I’m as turned off by pop culture’s current nostalgia-craze as the next guy, and on the surface, Ready Player One looked to be the film industry’s most shameless nostalgia cash grab yet. But having now seen the film, I have to say, Spielberg does enough right with the film to outweigh any predisposed philosophical grievances going into it.

The “OASIS” is a fully immersive virtual reality universe that has all but replaced physical reality

Ready Player One centers around Wade Watts/Parzival (Tye Sheridan), an average-joe-in-the-real-world, prodigal gamer in a fully immersive virtual reality game called “The OASIS.” The film takes off when Wade makes the first breakthrough in the in-game hunt for a special “easter egg” that will grant the player who finds it the vast inheritance of deceased Oasis-creator James Halliday (Mark Rylance), including his ownership of the OASIS itself, and by extension, control of the real world that has become socioeconomic dystopia. Along the way, Wade is accompanied by his (virtual) best friend and fellow “gunter” (presumably short for easter egg hunter) Aech (Lena Waithe), and famous OASIS gunter/political activist by the name of Art3mis (Olivia Cooke). Together, they race to solve Halliday’s three riddles to find the three keys to unlock the three gates to the coveted egg. However, their biggest threat, aside from each other, is Nolan Sorrento (Ben Mendelsohn), the CEO of Innovative Online Industries, who has dedicated all of his massive corporation’s resources to claim the egg so that he can monetize the OASIS for financial exploitation.

Perhaps my favorite aspect of Ready Player One is how quickly it justifies all the nostalgia porn on display. A lot of people’s complaints with the idea of this film stems from the film’s seemingly using the viewer’s recognition of familiar IPs as its main selling point. Contrary to what the trailers would lead you to think, the overabundance of pop culture references in the form of recognizable characters are merely the logical consequence of their historical popularity with the players themselves, who have chosen and customized their own in-game avatars to be like, if not exactly like, their favorite pop culture characters.

The Iron Giant is just one of many pop culture icons that makes an appearance in Ready Player One

The film makes a subtle, but meaningful distinction between reverence for pop culture and nostalgic longing, primarily through role of the OASIS in the film world. The socioeconomic importance of the OASIS within the confines of the film is made all the more prevalent when considering the film’s dystopian setting, which as stated by Wade himself is a direct result of “people [having stopped] trying to solve real world problems.” Halliday’s creation, what is in spirit a manifestation of nostalgia itself, has long surpassed its recreational purposes. The OASIS is Halliday’s self-proclaimed escape from his real-world’s difficulties and complexities, an escape so complete and so immersive that the world has essentially abandoned the reality for this virtual substitute, effectively creating the Black Mirror-esque dystopia the characters are now forced to endure.

Nostalgia is a bittersweet phenomenon. On one hand, it’s completely understandable to want to relive a time in your life when maybe things weren’t quite so stressful or complicated. But on the other hand, the consequences of excessive nostalgic indulgence, at the mass cultural scale we see in the film and in part in the real world today, leads to sociopolitical regression and ethical complicity. We may not have a real-life OASIS, but the social/mass media echo-chambers that make up the modern Internet, aren’t too far off in effect.

In the end, Ready Player One is no cinematic masterpiece, but its action is impressive, its heart is big, and most importantly, its got its politics right.