In a post-apocalyptic future, people are being hunted by terrifying creatures who can’t see, but can hear EVERYTHING. Don’t make a sound, or you’re dead. That’s pretty much all the setup this movie provides and frankly, that’s all you need. There is no complex back story about how this came to be, no explanation for where everyone else in the world is. All we have is a man (John Krasinski), his wife (Emily Blunt) and kids, making their way silently through life, just trying to survive. Bad things happen, and then terrifying things happen. All the while, the family must stay strong, be smart and survive.
It sounds bare bones when you put it like that, but it is essentially what the film is all about. What makes this worth watching is all the detail that’s built around the skeleton of the story. First up, the whole ‘stay quiet’ thing. You think you can, but when you start noticing exactly how much sound your every action generates, that’s when you realise just how hyperaware you would have to be to avoid attracting attention to yourself. We haven’t even got to speech yet. The family communicates via sign language. Again, that’s all well and good but imagine not being able to make a single sound – no yelling in frustration, crying out loud in pain, laughing, running. The enormity of the situation builds as you watch them go about their lives and realise just how much of a challenge this can be.
I don’t want to give away any spoilers so let me just say that the screenwriters (Bryan Woods, Scott Beck and Krasinski) ratchet up the tension as the story moves along in ways that are absolutely unapologetic. Squeamish? Afraid of pain? Tough. They’re going to go there, and you’re going to feel it. This isn’t a gore-fest, but it is not for the faint of heart either.
The cast is small – Krasinski (who also directed the film), Blunt, their on-screen older son (Noah Jupe), younger son (Cade Woodward) and daughter (Millicent Simmonds) who is hearing impaired. The heavy lifting – as in the movie – is done by all actors. Krasinski and Blunt, married in real life, might benefit from existing chemistry but the family as a unit does a stellar job at keeping the audience so invested in their fate.
The film lives in all the little details that the writers weave into the story – a lighting system to silently communicate a message to those outside the house, a baby crib outfitted with some specific tools that you certainly wouldn’t find on your average baby shower registry, sound-proofed board games… the list goes on. It is very well thought out and that’s what makes the movie memorable.
As far as horror movies go, this one pushes the envelope. Well done to all involved. Now go watch it in a cinema and offer up a prayer that your fellow audience members can stay silent as well.