This week I went to see two horror films. I only ended up seeing one and a half of them. What happens next will horrify you.
First, I saw A Quiet Place, John Krasinski’s latest directorial effort in which he stars alongside his wife, Emily Blunt. The film’s plot according to IMDb is – “A family is forced to live in silence while hiding from creatures that hunt by sound”.
A Quiet Place is a perfect exercise in tension building and set piece cinema. From the opening shot to its final seconds, the film never lets up its iron fast grip on your nerves. The lack of spoken dialogue means that Krasinski has to use non-verbal storytelling to establish his world and characters. He does this expertly, using inference, smart cinematography and editing and pieces of set dressing to bring us expertly up to speed with the events which have taken place. This skilled direction extends to the rest of the film where he deploys a whole bag of tricks visually to keep this simple story varied and fresh over 90 minutes.
The performances are also strong. Emily Blunt gives a brilliant performance as the mother of the family, trying to keep everything together whilst also being heavily pregnant. Krasinski is also very strong and makes the father charismatic, charming and deeply human. However, the two child actors, Millicent Simmonds and Noah Jupe match them both. Both have two of the most expressive faces seen on screen for a long time and give their all to their performances.
The script, by Bryan Woods, Scott Beck and John Krasinski is imaginative and pushes the concept to its breaking point. The opportunities for scares seem limited but the setup of the family (pregnant wife, deaf daughter) and the geography of the farm which they live on means that the action never gets stale.
Overall, this film is a masterpiece in all departments. As a fan of horror cinema, I loved the film’s blend of mainstream appeal with intelligent writing and direction. It has strong performances, a great soundtrack and will have you leaving the cinema with your voice lowered. It’s a scary film but not one which pushes the fear too far. I always enjoyed the tension and fear.
The same cannot be said for Ghost Stories. This is a film with a great setup, talented cast and creative people behind the scenes. However, the film pushes the fear factor far beyond comfortable levels, and I spent most of the time unhappily cowering from the screen. In the end, I simply wasn’t gaining anything from the film, and left.
While this is not journalistic policy, I can tell you that the film is only for those of hardier spirits than I. If you loved The Conjuring or The Sixth Sense, where ghosts make loud clanging noises and scream a lot, you’ll love Ghost Stories. However, for me, it could not leap the extremely high bar set by A Quiet Place.