An artfully-crafted and cleverly designed horror film driven by intense white-knuckle suspense from the talents of John Krasinski, A Quiet Place is actually a drama about overcoming a family tragedy told in the guise of a horror movie. The Blu-ray quietly hides for survival with a gorgeous, near-reference video presentation, a fantastic demo-worthy Dolby Atmos soundtrack and a disappointingly sad assortment of supplements, but the overall package is nonetheless Recommended.
We have also reviewed this movie on 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray.
A Quiet Place is an artfully-crafted and cleverly designed horror film from the imagination of someone genre fanatics never would have expected. Before taking directorial duties for what has already made the top list of best and smartest horror flicks of the year — and even of recent memory — John Krasinski, known for playing the lovable prankster Jim Halpert on The Office, helmed a pair of dramedies, which further adds to the surprise. Then again, he brings that experience and appreciation to storytelling to this tale about a family struggling to survive humanity's extinction, and at the same time, he demonstrates a perceptive aptitude for white-knuckle suspense that's emotionally-driven and harrowing. In the opening moments, without a character uttering a word, Krasinski shows a family scavenging through a drug store, communicating only in sign language. Headlines provide a general idea of a world invaded by aliens with acutely-sensitive hearing, and then tragedy strikes when the youngest is swiftly attacked by one such creature.
Not only is Krasinski expertly setting the tone for the remainder of the film, but he and his team of talented filmmakers are also grounding the story with verisimilitude in a matter of fewer than five minutes, which is pretty remarkable. Expositional details are supplied visually with a few cunningly designed auditory cues for that sense of realism — the mild clacking of drug bottles as the mom (Emily Blunt) hunts for medicine, the soft pattering of footsteps running on sand and the rustling of leaves in the distance. We're kept in the dark of why this family is vigilant and persistent in being quiet, a mystery that later extends to the origins of the alien monsters, which for this horror fan, I love knowing little to nothing. The amount of silence is so unusual and uncommon in modern productions that it quickly establishes an unsettling atmosphere of apprehension, a constant thick air of dread the generates both fear and curiosity of what would happen if a children's toy were to suddenly go off. Why is the dad (Krasinski) so rigorously stringent on ensuring we never find out?
It's a strikingly innovative approach for pulling audiences into this reality because when the silence is finally broken, we immediately understand the danger without realizing we also forgot to breathe during that dreadful, nail-biting minute. And this opening sequence also plays a profoundly crucial role in the film's overall central theme: the endless ordeal of being a parent — the constant, never-ceasing fear of failing to protect one's child. A Quiet Place is actually a drama about overcoming a family tragedy told in the guise of a horror movie, about a loss that can scar everyone deeply and possibly lead to a festering wound that could infect the well-being of the entire family if left ignored. And the brilliance of Krasinski's film is a family living an existence where they can't talk, basically forced to ignore their problems and never truly allowed the opportunity to grieve or address the pain they're suffering. Understood this way, the poignant story becomes all the more heartbreaking in those brutally gut-wrenching final moments.
Essentially, the plot is a marvelous blend of Don't Breathe and the first half of Wall•E meets the horror video game The Last of Us, almost as though Krasinski and co-writers Bryan Woods and Scott Beck were inspired by all three during a Friday night marathon. And like those three, A Quiet Place is layered with other underlining concerns shrouded in this idea of never really talking. When Blunt's character shares her hear of protecting their children Regan (Millicent Simmonds) and Marcus (Noah Jupe), there is a sense she's expressing more than a literal fight against hungry monsters. As working middle-class parents, there is also the anxiety of having the resources to protect one's kids from those intent on causing harm, the endless worry of providing a stable, safe home that shields the kids from the world's suffering, and the incessant doubt one is raising their kids into healthy, capable adults. And the filmmakers splendidly capture and express the drama of these anxieties as terrifyingly grotesque monsters threatening the security of home.
Vital Disc Stats: The Blu-ray
Paramount Home Entertainment brings A Quiet Place to Blu-ray as a two-disc combo pack with an UltraViolet Digital Copy, which can be redeemed via ParamountMovies.com. The Region-Free, BD50 disc sits comfortably opposite a DVD-9 copy inside the standard blue, eco-vortex case with glossy slipcover. At startup, viewers can skip over several trailers before being greeted by a static screen with the usual selection along the bottom and music playing in the background.
Silence is truly golden on Blu-ray thanks to a stunningly beautiful, highly-detailed 1080p/AVC MPEG-4 encode. Coming from a 35mm source, the freshly-minted transfer is razor-sharp for a majority of the runtime with only a few moments that noticeably dip in resolution, most of which are extreme long shots and likely the result of the creative choices in the cinematography. Nevertheless, individual hairs and leaves sway in the wind distinctly, the fine lines and wood grain of the house and the bark of trees are striking, and the stitching and threading in the clothing are very well-defined. A visibly thin grain structure is stable throughout with several sequences looking a bit more prominent than others, especially at night, which is a big chunk of the movie, but it gives the overall HD presentation a lovely film-like quality.
Presented in its original 2.39:1 aspect ratio, the video comes with a slightly warmer than normal contrast balance, which tends to bloom many of the highlights while still providing clean, crisp whites in the clothing and other areas. So, for all intents and purposes, this appears to be a deliberate visual style that also slightly skews the teal-orange palette to more sultry yellows, balmy oranges and homely earth tones, nicely reflecting the hot, sunny summer climate. Although greens and blues are not particularly vibrant, they are nonetheless accurately rendered while reds are richly saturated and hauntingly dramatic. Thankfully, black levels are not affected by the stylized photography, bathing the screen with inky, dismally bleak shadows that penetrate deep into the background without sacrificing the finer aspects and providing the image with appreciable dimensionality. (Video Rating: 94/100)
The fight for survival breaks the silence with a fantastically thrilling, reference-quality Dolby Atmos soundtrack that marvelously takes full advantage of the object-based format like few movies do. To be fair, the design creatively utilizes silence and noise for generating a particular aural experience. It's not meant for bombarding the audience with the typical chaotically frightening mayhem expected of the genre, of which there are a few, but for creating an authentic environment with a continuous sense of dread and apprehension. So, various ambient effects, like the rustling of leaves, birds chirping or crickets singing in the distance, are endlessly occupying the surrounds and the ceiling channels, providing a splendidly immersive hemispheric soundfield. Better still, the best demo-worthy moments are those when the creatures are on the prowl or to give a greater sense of their menacing size. Their hungry growls and slow, determined footsteps flawlessly pan from the sides and rears into the back heights and continue directly overhead into the fronts.
For a movie with a carefully orchestrated audio design emphasizing silence, the screen feels endlessly alive with lots of background activity and bustling with a variety of atmospherics that convincingly travel into the off-screen space. Many of those same effects and the ominous music of Marco Beltrami spreads across the three front channels and top heights, generating a highly engaging and spacious half-dome soundstage that never seems to give the listener a true moment of peace. An extensive and dynamic mid-range exhibits superb clarity and definition during the loudest, ear-piercing moments, revealing exceptional distinction in the deafening howls of the creatures and their echo-location clicks while also delivering outstanding warmth and fidelity during the quieter sequences. The few bits of dialogue are precise and intelligible with remarkable intonation while an appreciably robust and often wall-rattlingly aggressive low-end provides a great deal of presence and weight to the creatures, occasionally sending a couch-rumbling boom that nicely energizes the entire room. (Audio Rating: 96/100)
Reading the Quiet (HD, 15 min): Standard EPK-like featurette made of BTS footage and cast & crew interviews discussing the plot, its themes, the performances and other aspects of the production.
The Sound of Darkness (HD, 12 min): As the title implies, a short piece on creating and editing the sound design with particular attention on the film's creative effects, lack of dialogue and the ominous musical score.
A Reason for Silence (HD, 8 min): Devoted to the specifics of designing the alien creatures.
An artfully-crafted and cleverly designed horror feature, A Quiet Place is a quietly layered film with poignant underlining concerns shrouded in the innovative idea of never talking, a drama about overcoming a severely-wounding family tragedy told in the guise of a horror movie. Writer and director John Krasinski splendidly captures and expresses parental anxieties as terrifyingly grotesque monsters threatening the security of home, making it one of the best horror films of the year and of recent memory. The innovative film hides on Blu-ray with a near-reference video presentation and a terrifically-immersive, demo-worthy Dolby Atmos track. With a rather disappointingly small assortment of supplements, the overall package comes recommended for both horror-hounds and audiophiles ravenous for a satisfying aural experience.