a quiet placeThe previews for A Quiet Place have been doing the rounds for some time, looking all the world like the distant cousin of 2016’s Don’t Breathe that had studied and went to college. We’ve all been stung before by trailers that look good and turn out to be bitterly disappointing. I feel bad for admitting this but there was a time when I thought that Sucker Punch looked kinda interesting. I’m not proud of that. I had higher hopes for this.

Emily Blunt and John Krasinski are a married couple who find themselves, their deaf daughter (a brilliant Millicent Simmonds) and two sons (Noah Jupe and Cade Woodward, both brilliant) on the wrong side of some kind of Catastrophic Event, presumably an alien invasion. The aliens are heavily armored, blind, but with an extraordinary sense of hearing. Make the slightest sound — just a cough or a sneeze — and it might just be the last thing they do. So the family walk on their bare feet, they communicate with ASL, they paint the squeak-free boards on their floors.

We join them three months after The Catastrophic Event, and already society has been mostly wiped out. Only small pockets of survivors remain, communicating their existence by way of hillside fires at night. On a recee into town to grab some meds for a fever, the youngest of the family attempts to steal a toy shuttle. Dad wisely says no, but the deaf daughter secretly gives it back to him, and then he sneakily doubles down on a pair of AAs. On a bridge out of town, the wee boy finds a switch that turns the shuttle into a klaxon and at that point, everything changes. A year later, and with Emily Blunt now heavily pregnant, the family is quietly coming to terms with those events.

The movie poses its bold questions early on. Exactly how is Emily Blunt intending to give birth without making a sound? How do they plan to keep their newborn baby quiet? How safe is the deaf daughter ever going to be when she’s unaware of any noise she or others in her vicinity may be creating? And what if any of them snore? It’s these questions that never stray too far from the viewers’ minds and it’s because of them that we know this wee family is about to be put through the mill.

For what is 95% a silent movie, the actors convey an enormous amount of emotion, mostly through expressions and body language. Not content with displaying his considerable acting chops, Krasinski directs with the precision of John Carpenter and also co-wrote the bad boy. One suspects he also rustled up a jambalaya or two in the catering truck.

The end result is an old-fashioned creature feature that genuinely does not let up the tension for the entire 95 minute running time. I say this as a good thing, but it’s actually physically exhausting to sit still throughout. Better yet, once the creature has been on screen, somehow it manages to retain its terrifying properties, which is quite an unusual achievement. And it’s all done so easily, so effortlessly. It’s difficult to come out of it and not think that all horror movies should be as good as this.

So it’s a scarier version of Don’t Breathe that, much like The Babadook, asks what it takes to protect a family and keep it together. It’s a great horror movie. Furthermore, it’s just a great movie.

A triumph!