“A Quiet Place” is as much a drama about the trials and tribulations of parenthood as it is a post-apocalyptic creature feature.
Set in the near future, the film follows Lee (John Krasinski) and Evelyn (Emily Blunt, who is also Krasinski’s real-life spouse) Abbott as they embark on a largely silent quest to keep their children alive in a world where omnipresent, sound-detecting monsters are lurking at every turn — or rather, every echo. How the Abbotts struggle to escape with blatantly noisy targets painted on their backs forms the rest of the story.
In an interview with The Daily Californian, Krasinski, the writer, director, co-producer and protagonist of “A Quiet Place,” spoke about the film’s themes of family. “We just had our second daughter about three weeks before I read the script. And so I was already in the state of terror of keeping this girl safe … and whether or not I was a good enough father,” Krasinski said.
“(And then) in comes this script about a family that relies on each other, about parents that would do absolutely anything for their kids. So it doesn’t take a lot for me to cry, but I was wide open for this one, and it connected to me in a big way,” Krasinski continued.
Instead of letting a deluge of monsters terrify viewers after every few minutes, Krasinski centered the stomach-churning dread inherent to horror films around the struggles of the Abbotts. While contributing rewrites to the film, he was committed to making viewers become invested in the Abbotts, since our attachment to them forms the basis for the film’s tension.
The film’s disquieting silence adds to this tension, and so it it was necessary for “A Quiet Place” to speak more through its visuals than its dialogue. The lack of dialogue freed Krasinski from the pitfall of overwriting the backstories and narrative behind each character.
The film’s focus on visuals as the primary communicative tool also allowed Krasinski to evoke a tenderness from the silence. “I got the rare opportunity to have a slow dance with my wife in this movie,” Krasinski recalled. “So much is being said in that one dance. … There was something really beautiful about just getting to be in that moment.”
Of course, even though a large portion of the film revolves around the struggles of the Abbotts themselves, it still has to build a credible menace around the creatures that are haunting them. Krasinski worked closely with the famed effects company Industrial Light & Magic, or ILM, to bring the sound-detecting monsters of “A Quiet Place” to life.
“I had all these notes, all these drawings. I even got down and crawled like the creature on camera for ILM,” Krasinski said. “(ILM was) involved in the process, and they have said to me many times that this is one of their most favorite experiences, because they felt like they were part of the team.”
Krasinski’s knack for directing comes from a long background in television and film. Before “A Quiet Place,” he famously exercised his acting chops as Jim Halpert from “The Office” and flexed his directorial muscles on “The Hollars.” Still, “A Quiet Place” marks the first major film where Krasinski has had to balance acting, directing, producing and writing at the same time.
“I felt so lucky to have all those jobs because I cared about this project so much. I was able to use every single aspect of each job to craft it exactly as I wanted it,” Krasinski said. As a writer, he didn’t have to worry about the director meddling with his screenplay, and, as a director, he wasn’t responsible for rescuing somebody else’s script. “If anybody was going to let me down, it was just me,” he added.
Ultimately, what stands out about “A Quiet Place” is the surprising amount of empathy that Krasinski imbues into it. Because of its emotional core, the film is fundamentally unlike other typified examples within its genre and exists in the contemporary horror space emblemized by films such as “The Witch,” “It Follows” and “Get Out.”
Krasinski alluded to his predisposition for taking the roads less travelled — roads that result in experimental successes like “A Quiet Place.” “I have always found that the best moments of my life are when I do actually jump. Even though the fall can be scary and sometimes the end result can be bad, when the end result is good, it’s the best moments that you’ll ever have in your life.”
Here’s hoping that he takes the leap as often as he can.
“A Quiet Place” is currently playing at UA Berkeley 7.