For tension to work, these moments of fear must be followed by moments of relief, to relax the audience and please them (normally for a short period), but, shortly after, build up the tension once more. Krasinski has cleverly used the focus in various scenes throughout the film to force fear over us, as we see the threat but our characters can’t.
A Quiet Place is a perfect example of how tension should work in film, with director, John Krasinski taking inspiration from films like Jaws (1975). As with Jaws I would not class A Quiet Place as a horror film, but a psychological thriller.
The film centres around a family living in a dystopian future, where blind monsters have invaded, and throughout the film we find out the reason for their attacks to be… they are untameably frustrated at any sound louder than a click of fingers. It stars director John Krasinski as Lee (the father) Emily Blunt (Krasinski’s real life wife) as Evelyn (the mother), Noah Dupe and Millicent Simmonds as the children.
Krasinski, from the opening scene, presents us with no needless exposition, no explaining what happened or how the monsters got there. He only provides the vital information to give us a reason to fear the ominous threat that is unseen for the first ten minutes – he presents this information using the mise-en-scene to tell the backstory. The benefit of emotionally reeling in the audience to care for the family so early on is that empathy for them means that we feel the state of constant fear.
As presented in A Quiet Place, when tension builds, it’s usually at a point of weakness or a dilemma. Krasinski frequently embeds these ideas into the film, most notably when Evelyn (Emily Blunt) goes into labour in the middle of the dystopic world where the only way to survive is to stay quiet; she is faced with a dilemma and experiencing a moment of weakness after stepping on a nail that pierces through her foot. In pure agony, she makes the swift decision to find a distraction to buy her time to give birth. This sequence makes for the tensest scene in the entire film, with the sound design adding to the unbearable tension as we, the spectator, question her fate.
The aforementioned sound design is absolutely impeccable; sound is vital for the workings of this film. Krasinski’s characters mainly communicate using sign language, but the sound editing intertwines eerie sounds from the score and little Foley noises that sprinkle over the scenes. As seen, and heard, in some of the best films of all time, the soundtrack is vital in building tension, like John Herman’s iconic score for Jaws.
Another element in the birthing scene that was executed excellently was the use of editing. Cuts are commonplace in film – but focusing on the ideas that can be evoked when a scene cuts is something that Krasinski nails. As Evelyn begins to give birth and the fireworks go off, she gives a massive scream, which then suddenly cuts. The cut leaves us questioning her fate. This is added to when we visit the bathroom again a few short minutes, after Lee finds the blood in what looks like an empty room, and we assume the worst. [spoiler] The tension is then broken by a necessary moment of relief as we find out she survived.
A Quiet Place utilises other key elements to add to the drama in their own respective way. For example, camera angles emphasise weakness or dilemma in the vast majority of scenes, accompanied by many handheld shots to immerse you into the action, and the smooth tracking shots that evoke the ominousness of the situation.
A Quiet Place is out on DVD; it’s a must see on the big screen – you will feel the tension rip through you as you sit there engrossed by the masterpiece that Krasinski has brought to life.