In 2020, most of Earth has been destroyed by sightless aliens that hunt via sound. But they aren’t the real danger that humanity faces. No, they’re facing nails. Upset pre-teens. And toys that make way too much noise.
Outside of Quest for Fire, this is the quietest, near dialogue-free movie that’s been released in mainstream U.S. cinemas. It’s interesting to me that John Krasinski wrote, directed and starred in this (he even is one of the monsters, doing some of the motion capture acting), as his star-making turn as Jim on the American version of The Office was marked by more of his silent reactions to events and longing for Pam than any words that he had to say. Along with real-life wife Emily Blunt, they form the emotional core of the tale, two parents trying to figure out how to raise children in a world where nearly everyone is dead and communication is impossible.
Millicent Simmonds from Wonderstruck is great as the daughter, whose deafness has helped her family, as their knowledge of American Sign Language has become an integral part of how they survive.
Originally, this film was intended to be a crossover or part of the Cloverfield universe. I’m glad that it was allowed to stand on its own merits. While some of the scares feel like Alien, there is still an originality to a movie that depends so much on sound design and subtle cues to bring out maximum suspense.
That said — as for originality, there’s a movie coming out in September called The Silence, where a family comes up against “a deadly, primeval species who have bred for decades in the pitch darkness of a vast underground cave system, hunting only with their acute hearing. As the family seeks refuge in a remote haven where they can wait out the invasion, they start to wonder what kind of world will remain when they’re ready to emerge.” Which is even weirder is that the movie stars Stanley Tucci, who is married to Emily Blunt’s sister Felicity.
This felt a bit slow to me, but I think that’s just the build here. For someone who wasn’t a horror fan growing up, Krasinski has a good feel for the genre. It’s intriguing to me that two of the biggest hits of the last few years, this and Get Out, came not from genre veterans but for creatives known mainly for comedy. Which is, after all, tragedy plus time.
PS – The scenes with the nail sticking out of the steps had me more upset than anything I’ve seen in a film in some time. This is from someone who can eat Chinese takeout while watching Fulci. Sometimes, the most real horrors are the most frightening of all!