Make a sound and they’ll kill you.
In horror movie after horror movie, the panicky potential victims hide in the closet or under the bed or in the shed or in the attic, hoping the demon or the ghost or the serial killer or the alien predator won’t spot them and rip them to shreds.
In the neatly spun and well-crafted supernatural thriller “A Quiet Place,” the humans don’t have to worry about the slimy, creepy, lizard-like creatures seeing them, because these particular monsters are literally blind.
Problem is, if you create a noise — any sudden aural spike in the prevailing ambient sound level, from knocking over an object to stepping on a loose floorboard to engaging in whispered conversation — you will trigger the incredibly sensitive hearing mechanisms of these creatures, and they will use that sound as a homing device, and they will end you in a split second.
John Krasinski is the director, co-writer and star of “A Quiet Place.” His real-life wife, Emily Blunt, plays his spouse in this movie. Krasinski is best known for playing Jim Halpert on “The Office,” and why not, given that was one of the best 10 comedies in television history and the Jim-Pam romance is one of the great TV love stories of all time.
Now that we have dispensed with that obligatory paragraph, props to Krasinski the filmmaker. His third effort as a feature director (after “Brief Interviews with Hideous Men” and “The Hollars”) is a major leap forward and serves notice he is a real talent behind the camera.
“A Quiet Place” doesn’t have the pin-you-to-your-seat originality of “Get Out,” or the psychological depth and pure scare impact of “Lights Out” or the wall-to-wall intensity of “Don’t Breathe,” but it is one of the smarter and more involving horror films of the last few years.
It takes a certain confidence of material and vision for a filmmaker to hit the ground running with a movie, plunging us into the story without exposition and trusting we’ll stay with it for a number of scenes.
Krasinski does just that — and with success — in “A Quiet Place.”
The first title card tells us it’s “Day 89” of … something. Something very, very bad. Something so bad the world as we know it has ceased to exist, and most of the population has been wiped out by the aforementioned alien monster creatures that kill everything and anything that makes a sound.
The Abbotts — dad Lee (Krasinski), mom Evelyn (Blunt), daughter Regan (Millicent Simmonds) and son Marcus (Noah Jupe) — are one of the few families that have figured out a way to survive.
They have a number of factors in their favor. They live on a farm in upstate New York, so growing crops isn’t a problem. Dad has some excellent survivalist skills, from catching fish with traps in a nearby river to building sound-proof safe rooms in the house to wiring the place with surveillance cameras to setting up an elaborate lighting grid throughout the property.
Also, the teenage Regan is deaf — so everyone in the family knows how to sign. They’ve known how to communicate in silence long before the aliens invaded. (Millicent Simmonds, the deaf actress who plays Regan, is absolutely brilliant.)
Throughout the timeline, no matter what the situation — the need to warn someone of imminent danger, the birth of a baby (newborns have a tendency to, um, cry), stepping on a nail and recoiling in pain, etc., etc. — various members of the Abbott family must keep quiet. That’s a pretty nifty setup to keep the tension going from moment to moment.
The camerawork and the sets and the lighting — all superb. Blunt and Krasinski are lovely together, particularly in a scene where they find a moment of tenderness amidst the chaos and uncertainty and dance to a certain Neil Young song.
Krasinski clearly enjoys invoking well-worn GOTCHA! scary movie moments, e.g., the sudden appearance of an evil alien in the background accompanied by a music sting as our hero remains oblivious, or the premature celebration of the monster’s death, or lingering on certain shots that all but announce, “We all know THIS is going to come into play down the road, right?”
I also got a sense of cinematic déjà vu from time to time, due to some superficial similarities to M. Night Shyamalan’s “Signs,” from the farm setting to the actual sounds the aliens make.
Not to suggest “A Quiet Place” doesn’t have its own signature style. This is the kind of film that delivers on about 75 percent of its promise and has you looking forward to the time when the director hits something all the way out of the park.
Paramount Pictures presents a film directed by John Krasinski and written by Krasinski, Bryan Woods and Scott Beck and John Krasinski. Rated PG-13 (for terror and some bloody images). Running time: 90 minutes. Opens Friday at local theaters.