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Krasinski’s deadly silence effective in ‘A Quiet Place’

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Emily Blunt, left, and Millicent Simmonds star in “A Quiet Place.” (Courtesy Paramount Pictures)

As with Jordan Peele’s 2017 “Get Out,” “A Quiet Place” is a horror movie made by someone — John Krasinski of “The Office” — primarily known for comedy.

It makes sense. Comedians understand that horror and comedy both elicit physical responses from an audience — laughter and fear. But “A Quiet Place,” which elicits fear, differs from “Get Out” in that it’s based on primal urges rather than beliefs.

The movie is good enough to deserve attention from die-hard horror fans and maybe even those who only dabble in the genre. It’s closer to clever than brilliant, and relies on a few old horror chestnuts, but is still delightfully effective.

The basic idea is that monsters have appeared. Their origin is thankfully left unexplained, but they are drawn to sound and attack whatever they hear. A howl of rage or frustration can end a life.

One family — Lee Abbott (Krasinski), his wife Evelyn (Emily Blunt, married to Krasinski, with two kids, in real life), their eldest daughter Regan (Millicent Simmonds) and son Marcus (Noah Jupe) — has managed to stay alive by being silent.

Their advantage: Because Regan is deaf, they know American Sign Language. Incidentally, the remarkable Simmonds is deaf in real life (she also appeared last year in Todd Haynes’ underrated “Wonderstruck”).

Whenever “A Quiet Place” shows her point of view, the soundtrack is completely silent, an especially eerie effect when the monsters creep around behind her.

Well over a year into the monster-ridden world, the family is OK. They have food stored, a surveillance system and warning lights. There is even a Monopoly game with soft pieces so that they don’t clunk on the board.

But, with Evelyn being pregnant — consider the howling pain of childbirth and a crying baby — daily life becomes a deadly proposition.

That’s it. Except for a few ordinary jump-scares and other horror movie staples, the movie is precision. Even the ending is compact and bracing.

“A Quiet Place” can lull viewers into a state of relaxation with the sheer beauty of the quiet. A sudden sound may cause a jump, but also dread and cold sweat, waiting to see if — or when — an attack will come.

Picture classic scenes of Ripley tiptoeing through a nest of alien eggs in “Aliens” or Tippi Hedrin and Rod Taylor creeping through a resting flock in “The Birds,” no one daring to make a sound. Krasinski has stretched moments like this into an entire movie.

Happily, Krasinski breaks the tension beautifully, with scenes like one when he takes his son to a noisy waterfall, which allows them to talk and even shout without the creatures hearing.

And a glorious fireworks show distracts the monsters from a more vulnerable target, while composer Marco Beltrami’s skillful, terrifying score grows and grows as the threat increases.

It’s one thing to stumble upon an idea so straightforward and pure — “Lights Out,” a terrific 2016 horror movie, had one — that it’s a wonder it hasn’t been used before.

It’s yet another thing to execute it so impeccably so as to have not wasted it.

“A Quiet Place” is a good example of that. It’s so savagely satisfying, it may leave viewers speechless.

REVIEW
A Quiet Place
Three and a half stars
Starring: Emily Blunt, John Krasinski, Millicent Simmonds, Noah Jupe
Written by: Bryan Woods, Scott Beck, John Krasinski
Directed by: John Krasinski
Rated PG-13
Running time: 1 hour, 30 minutes

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