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They can hear you

Paula Fleri-Soler takes a behind-the-scenes look at A Quiet Place.

Emily Blunt and John Krasinski in A Quiet Place.

Emily Blunt and John Krasinski in A Quiet Place.

In the modern horror thriller A Quiet Place, a family of four must navigate their lives in silence after mysterious creatures that hunt by sound threaten their survival. If they hear you, they hunt you.

The film stars Emily Blunt as Evelyn Abbott; Blunt’s real-life husband John Krasinski as Lee Abbott; Millicent Simmonds as Regan Abbott; Noah Jupe as Marcus Abbott; and Cade Woodward as Beau Abbott. Krasinski, in his third venture behind the camera, directs a screenplay he co-wrote with Bryan Woods and Scott Beck based on a story by Woods and Beck.

The story is set in a not-so-distant and dystopian future that has the Earth taken over by horrific, predatory creatures that are blind, but that hunt and hone in on their prey simply by listening out for noise.

Among the survivors are the Abbott family, who live on a farm on the outskirts of New York and who spend their lives scavenging for supplies and communicating solely by sign language, not only because their daughter Regan is deaf, but because remaining silent is necessary for evading their predators. And yet, despite their supreme efforts, the creatures soon become aware of their presence.

Krasinski first read an early draft of the script when Blunt had just given birth to their second daughter, and the terrifying premise hit home especially hard. He was utterly transported by the idea of a family’s nerve-jangling, high stakes search for safety, as well as their vital need for connection, in a world where so much as a single cry or heavy footstep could bring instant demise.

A Quiet Place presents the audience with a nightmarish scenario. Yet, Krasinski did not want this to be merely about scares for the audience. He wanted to link the emotions of love and fear; and invest the audience actively in both by having the sense of horror mount in direct correlation with the viewer’s growing attachment to the Abbotts.  

“If you care about the Abbotts, then you will be surprised when they’re surprised, you’ll be sad when they’re sad and you’ll be desperately afraid when they’re desperately afraid.  So that became the core of what I wanted to do:  to let audiences fall in love with what it is that makes the Abbotts such a beautiful family,” Krasinski explains.  “You become scared for them in the most intense way because you can imagine yourself in their place.” 

The psychological thriller is pretty much dialogue-free, one of its unique selling points. “I was excited to explore how to tell this story in the most exciting way using the balance between silence and sound,” Krasinski said,  meaning the film’s sound designers Erik Aadahl and Ethan Van der Ryn had their work cut out for them.

To help the audience empathise more with the Abbotts, Krasinski sought to use auditory cues in innovative ways.  He started to make elaborate lists of everyday noises, dividing them between safe sounds and unsafe sounds. He describes the process as both thrilling and revealing.

“I really wanted to come to terms with where the threshold would be that you can make a sound and the being that is out there won’t hear you,” he elaborates. “I spent a lot of time researching every kind of sound a family might make on an isolated farm and then I started thinking about all the ways the family might figure out to dampen those sounds. It was an incredibly fun, imaginative process.”

A Quiet Place has brought Krasinksi and his cast many kudos in his third venture behind the camera. The film has been embraced enthusiastically by audiences. It has also been met with much critical acclaim, currently boasting a 97 per cent positive rating on celebrated (or maligned, depending on your point of view) film review aggregator site Rotten Tomatoes, with critics raving over pretty much all aspects of the film.

The director and his co-writers have been praised for creating a clever, tension-filled horror peopled with richly-drawn characters. Blunt and Simmonds (who is deaf in real life) have come in for high praise from all quarters for their performances, while many comment of the film’s exceptional ability to engage the audience’s emotions, whether by getting them to jump out of their seats or to empathise fully with the family and its ordeal.

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