Killing the noise: ‘A Quiet Place’ and the Death of Horror
On April 6th, the world would be silenced as we put forth the final nail in the coffin to horror with the release of John Krasinski’s A Quiet Place. The film places us in a land where anything louder than a whisper could cost you your life as the hunters have become the hunted. It’s filled with fantastic moments that keep you curious for what can happen next as the story unfolds. The film itself is good, but where it does carry its strength, is the same place you can find its flaws. At the end of the day that is just it, the film is just barely above average in its attempt to draw you in. The truth is after what many would consider a good two year run in the genre, it is finally time to say goodbye to the horror genre.
By no means am I stating that A Quiet Place was the executioner at the ceremony, but its appearance was akin to watching a casket of a close relative lower into the six feet deep grave. Going into this film, I much like everyone else eyed the hype that surrounded this picture. A Quiet Place introduced an interesting concept that could reignite the once strongly lit flame in the genre, but it did not. Granted there is room to admit that the genre wasn’t what this film was at its core. Much like the Academy Award nominated film of the same genre, Get Out, the story outshines the genre of which it’s placed. Director John Kransinki even referred to it being more about a movie of sacrifice for one’s family on The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon. However, this fails to save it from the role it plays in the decay of the genre.
Before I continue, there were many moments in the film that felt right. They were paced so well I started to see into a glimpse of the hype that surrounded the film. There were sincere connections between the characters that I did manage to generate feelings for them. The only thing that truly has moments of genuine sacrifice or any other emotions that it would give you on how to feel is the fact that there is little around the corner that you don’t see coming. For a person who watches the same genre films, it came as no surprise that Emily Blunt’s character steps on a nail she left up after getting a piece of cloth stuck on it and struggling to not drop anything. There was no wow, it was just a matter of when it would happen, and when it did, it was just meh at best.
There are two moments that were executed so perfectly that one can’t deny how flawless the scenes were created. One of those scenes is when the basement floods after she has the baby. The way she turns her head, resembling more of a lake and the baby afloat looks all too close to one of those creatures. The terror is real, and it’s honest. This is what the film did right. This is that torment of suspense that should’ve been attached to that “what would you sacrifice for your family” narrative like a parasite getting all it can from its host. A Quiet Place missed its mark in several places, and often overstepped its boundaries in the area of sound ironically in a film where too much would cost the characters their lives. Boosting your audio at the second of an impact does not invoke fear, it’s just you reacting to a noise with a frightening image in front of it.
A Quiet Place is a good film, there isn’t anything that can take that away, but it does maintain its flaws. Apart from the noise, when the dust settles, it is just that. However, that noise does carry with it a louder message, which sounded like a bell tolling. After years of entertaining and being one of the most underrated and innovative film genres, it is time to say farewell. After recent films like The Babadook, Lights Out, The Conjuring 2, IT, Get Out, etc., it is time to lay the genre to rest. When you go back to the ’30s when Universal gave us those Monster classics that nearly every director has invested in their box of inspiration from their childhood. Films like Frankenstein and The Wolfman made advancements continuously pushing cinema forward, testing what they could do on the screen. While not everyone has Richie Tozier syndrome and are afraid of the Wolfman, there was this spectacle that came from watching these creatures come to light.
There wasn’t anything sweeter than wanting to see Dracula and The Creature From The Black Lagoon, but times changed. Audiences began to get tired of these pictures and seeing them as outdated fears. With so many sequels and crossovers in franchises, they were better off on the back of a cereal box or as a Halloween costume. SciFi films would infect the screen by fusing horror and deliver the overdose that made the genre laughable. It wouldn’t really be until Alfred Hitchcock delivered Psycho, and then there was an idea of rebirth for the genre. However, this wouldn’t be the only film that would have an impact in the ’60s. In 1968, Romero would give us Night of the Living Dead, which couldn’t have come a better time because both of these films, along with a few others, were the first traces of a rebirth. With Psycho we saw a similar murder mystery format, but it pulled the horror out, and allowed for the man to be the monster. No longer were we facing off against the Wolfman— it was our own neighbor that had us itching. In similar context, Night of the living Dead suspended us in disbelief due to the lack of reason. What we knew and why it was happening was never revealed. The dead had risen, and this was who we’d be facing.
Arriving in the ’70s, cinema took a turn with films like The Last House on the Left, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, and Halloween. Films like The Last House on the Left and The Texas Chainsaw Massacre pulled no punches, in contrast to Psycho, which felt the need to show less. However, showing blood and upping the violence almost as loud as the screams as the victims is what made the name given fit so well; as it would be dubbed the slasher genre. Though, being released all around the same time, Halloween proved to be the bridge between films like The Last House on the Left and Psycho. Horror for the first time looked like it was making a full-fledged comeback. Hell, we even got Dawn of the Dead in the same decade, which was good, but what came next was perfect.
This is where the “Decade of Darkness” comes to light. The ’80s were unhinged and unapologetic where there was a few to spare from this era where horror threw everything at you. This age would also appear special because even the B-movies had an attractiveness to them that kept eyes on them at all times. Films like Night of the Demons, Demons, Return of the Living Dead fused elements of punk and goth culture, allowing fans to enjoy the actual picture or the kick-ass soundtrack that accompanied it. More front and center films like The Thing, A Nightmare on Elm Street, and The Shining would give us scenarios that chilled all marrow in the bone. Using themes of isolation to tap into fear so eloquently you could not turn away from the screen. Films like Friday the 13th, Child’s Play, and Sleepaway Camp gave fun to the genre where the body count became just as fun as the premise. Werewolves and Vampires even made their return to the screen with films like The Howling, An American Werewolf in London, and Fright Night. This was where the horror genre was at— much like the current state of hip-hop where there was so much that you could literally find something for everyone no matter how much it wasn’t your thing.
However, history does repeat itself and we saw the end of slasher genre frontrunners like A Nightmare on Elm Street, Halloween, and Friday the 13th; they were more than likely on their last good sequel at the end of the decade. Before we knew it, time had passed and Freddy and Chucky were nothing more than stand up comics with bodies on their record. Jason became about gags, and no one had a clue what was going on with Michael Myers. Films like Poltergeist fought strong, but none of its sequels would be as memorable as the first was. Fans knew the format down to a tee. The old format that had been drafted by creators had been well past its expiration date, and now filmmakers in this area spent their time scratching their heads. Wes Craven would team with soon to be Dawson’s Creek creator, Kevin Williamson, to test the waters for a spark— as we got Scream.
The film was a success, but sizzled almost as fast it came to light with two arguably unwanted sequels. What came next was a scarce era of good films, with most being Japanese remakes like The Ring and The Grudge. This, in short, rounds us back to now. We’ve had many jewels on the way, but now after years, this relationship has begun to feel strung on. The smoke and mirrors have been revealed, and audience members are so used to the genre, they shrug if something frightening does happen. This grave is not one of malice, but one with great achievement attached to it. With a decade carved in every tombstone and just as many great films to add to its list, its resurgence makes this goodbye more sweet than bitter. Ultimately, we must come to understand that this is far from horror’s time, and rightfully so. With that, I do smile as the genre embarks on its next incarnation.
Until we meet again.