“You can’t say anything anymore without someone jumping down your throat,” so claim both social conservatives tired of political correctness and everyone in A Quiet Place, John Krasinski’s new sci-fi horror film. And what happens if you do try to say something anymore? So far as conservatives are concerned, a social media mob comes to harang you for not knowing what the current appropriate vocab for queer or poor is, and in Krasinski’s film, that mob is simply a toothy and brutal alien which patiently listens for anything vaguely human, then pounces.
While I have occasionally seen films which are more pro-life than A Quiet Place, I have never seen a film which more accurately gives shape to the frustration and fear of conservative Americans at the prospect of speaking their minds in public settings. A Quiet Place is set in the aftermath of an alien invasion, wherein a brutal and blind species walks the earth, waiting with keen ears for sounds of sentience, then races with breakneck speed when alerted to anything north of a whisper. The film follows just a single family, five persons, in the months and years after the monsters come. While never named in the film, the credits reveal Krasinski and wife Emily Blunt are Evelyn and Lee Abbott, a farming family who pointedly pray for their food and homeschool their children by necessity. They keep to themselves, do not bother anyone, and spend their days fishing, doing the laundry, and preparing to be attacked. The key characters in the film are named for cultural figures in our own word who are similarly under attack: Evelyn is a cipher for Eve, the first woman, Lee is a cipher for Robert E Lee (because the film is just that brazen), and their eldest child, who ultimately proves the genius of the story, is (I swear I am not making this up) named Regan. How exactly a film with so much Republican goodwill is sitting at an 82 on Metacritic is beyond me.
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In the first several minutes of the film, the Abbotts lose a child who makes a sound. This loss occurs around three months after the invasion. Then the film jumps forward more than a year, and a series of establishing shots and pointed images show the Abbott farm and their daily routines. When we cut forward, Evelyn is many months pregnant, which, after thinking on this for a moment or two, obviously means trouble is brewing. In a world wherein making a sound means monsters arrive moments later, an infant is pure liability. Not deterred, the Abbotts do some sound proof nesting, and when the child is finally born, it is safely laid in a basket which the plot contrives to float (a la Moses) only a few minutes later. The fact that the child spells certain death for the family does not trouble the parents. If they killed the child in utero, they would be no better than the monsters out to get them. Krasinski contrives a situation in which, “I couldn’t imagine bringing a child into this world” makes perfect sense, but then brings a child into the world anyway.
The conclusion of the film involves turning a radio or a microphone into a weapon which disorients the demons; once the political mood of the film is discerned, this plot device is no less loaded than the shotgun Evelyn cocks in the finale. I don’t intend for this to be a genuine review of the film, which is by turns thrilling and limp, though I am intrigued that Hollywood can yet produce something so far to the right and no one seems to notice. I am still waiting for the sharply pro-life angles of Children of Men, Blade Runner 2049, or Arrival to be discerned by the standard bearers at Rotten Tomatoes, though too many critics today have their eyes peeled for, say, cultural appropriation in Isle of Dogs. Krasinski’s A Quiet Place is a barely coded missive, a hearty hail from a Hollywood player to everyone out there defiantly standing on the wrong side of history.