Intercontinental flights are a chance to catch up on movies. I am generally oblivious of what is hot in Hollywood. Too tired to work but not yet jaded enough to sleep, I flick through the latest movies in the in-flight entertainment system and voila, ‘A Quiet Place’ catches my attention. Easy enough as I am into all things quiet, calm, silent and always curious how connotations thereof play out in any art form.
A Quiet Place is a 2018 horror movie directed by John Krasinski. The story revolves around a family struggling to survive in a post-apocalyptic world roamed by blind monsters with hyper-sensitive auditory faculty that will readily massacre any creature making a sound. Eating chips or popcorn would seriously mess you up in that world; the audience is left wondering if uncontrolled digestive winds would as well.
A Quiet Place (2018) – Official Trailer – Paramount Pictures #AQuietPlace #StayQuiet
The reception of ‘A Quiet Place’ has been widely positive. The film scored an approval rating of 95% on review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes with an average rating of 8.2/10 of the based on 328 reviews. The website’s critical consensus reads, ‘A Quiet Place artfully plays on elemental fears with a ruthlessly intelligent creature feature that’s as original as it is scary – and establishes director John Krasinski as a rising talent.’ Metacritic has a weighted average score of 82 out of 100 for the film, based on 55 critics, meaning ‘universal acclaim.’
Given my much less favorable reception of the film, I cannot help but suspect groupthink among critics or just outstanding marketing by Paramount. IMDb’s slightly lower rating of 7.6 based on 248,021 ratings strikes me as more appropriate.
Mind you; this is not a film critic but a casual observation related to noise pollution anger. There are a couple of remarks I cannot refrain to make though:
First I will say though that I did like the movie for being, even if involuntary I think, a reminder that the world is sound. If you are familiar with Joachim-Ernst Berendt’s excellent work ‘The World Is Sound: Nada Brahma: Music and the Landscape of Consciousness,’ you might agree that even if ‘A Quiet Place’ refers to this subtle concept in its title, any further exploration does not happen.
Second, what critics have applauded as a ‘subtle approach to world-building’ I have to stay behind as there are so many questions and inconsistencies in this post-apocalyptic scenario that the plot becomes construed: Who so very quietly planted and harvested all that corn? Filled those grain elevators? Why doesn’t the Abbot family live near the noise-shielding waterfall where it is safe to talk? Why don’t they routinely apply noisemakers to distract the monsters? Has there ever been such a quiet baby on this planet? Or people who never sneeze? Noone on the planet has been able to figure out that a squeaky sound frequency distresses the monsters while turning an opponent’s strength into a weakness is what any martial artist would think of first.
The list will have to remain incomplete; my point is at hand: Submerging into the creator’s world is an essential joy of reading a novel or watching a movie. The unknown and the unexplainable stir basic fears in the audience. They fuel the horror genre. But when the unexplainable becomes exceedingly unbelievable, plot and horror fail because we cannot enter the creator’s world.
When we can’t flow with the story, we are left to look at idea fragments. And there is one that my reptilian brain loves. At the same time, my frontal lobe screams in utter indignation that the monsters only snatch good people. Spoiler alert ahead: the Abbot’s son Beau, the Man in the Woods, and Lee are by no means characters anybody would take pleasure in their demise.
But imagine this:
The juvenile imbecile is kicking his Ducati motorcycle to supersonic speed and rocket-level noise on the inner-city strip of the empty street. The sound is so loud that you can’t even hear the screaming vulgarities coming out of your mouth as a reflex to the pain. Woosh, one of those noise sensitive monsters comes dashing through the trees and over the hedges on the right and in a split second we are back to the jolly birds tweeting. Feeling a little calmative effect on your nerves?
Or how about:
You arrive in Bangkok late evening local time after a twenty-hour flight with a throbbing headache as you could not sleep on the plain. You check into your 5-star hotel on Sukhumvit Road and sigh with bliss when you let your aching head sink into the soft yet firm pillow in your pitch dark executive room with park view on the 25th floor. Ah, the things money can do for you.
After a couple of minutes, you hear a door bang in the corridor. A minute later the door bangs again. Drunken male shouts in your native tongue right in front of your door. Female shrieks join in. More door bangs and then a rattling whoomp as somebody gets pushed against your door in what appears to be a travel group of intoxicated morons acting out their tantrums right in front of your door. Your system pumps straight into red alert; you forgo the apparent choice of calling Front Desk, rush to your door and breath in deeply to unleash a hellish bellow to quieten the mischiefs and release your infuriation. Alas, you don’t have to. Your opening heavy door gives view to an overly obese mid-aged male body in thongs, white tennis shorts, and a red muscle shirt with a palm tree picture ripped in half across the open abdomen, and messy guts gushing out and splattered about the posh, brownish carpet. You spot the monsters’ greyish slippery hind heels conveniently disappearing through the housekeeping door at the other end of the corridor. Not the least troubled by the butchery in front of your door nor the impending police scene and interrogation you retire to your bed and drift off into a peaceful slumber unhesitatingly. Possible, yes?
Here is a third scenario to feed that noise pollution anger gremlin:
The next late morning, you only faintly remember the splattered guts from the night before. You walk along Sukhumvit Road looking for that local hidden culinary gem you read about on your favorite travel blog. While you wonder how granny’s back alley kitchen fits in with all the fancy, newly built high rise condominiums a guard steps in from of you. Not only does he cut off your way, but also blows his high pitch whistle almost straight into your ear as he frantically signals with his right arm to the black BMW leaving unto the main road. Flabberghasted by the sudden intrusion, you duck down shielding your ears from the impossible noise. Glaring at the splash of blood on the floor in front of you, you realize that a monster just ripped off the upper body of the guard taking its kill with it into the bushes on the right while the guard’s disembodied legs and abdominal stump slowly keel over to the left. In disbelief at what can happen in broad daylight in a metropolitan CBD, you feel the subtle satisfaction of scales balanced.
And zoom out to reality where you have to suck it up and find a rational, norm and law-abiding course of action to get away from the noise. And zoom out to reality again where you have to suck it up, nothing else happens, and all you have is your little fantasies of a better world to play with.
Violence is, just in case you wondered, not an option. Nor am I particularly fond of the horror genre or have any sadistic tendencies. But yes, the idea of immediate and forceful retribution of noisy cretins ignorantly impacting the world around them does tickle my inner reservoir of noise pollution pain. Perhaps not being cinematically ripped to pieces by monsters leaving only bloody shreddings behind. But some retribution comes to mind and feels good. As such, ‘A Quiet Place’ was excellent entertainment for me.