John Krasinski dons his writer, director and actor caps for A Quiet Place, a sort of hybrid horror/sci-fi flick set in post-apocalyptia that finds a man and his family forced into constant silence to stay alive. Mysterious creatures have appeared in Farmland, USA, and seeing as they're blind, they navigate and hunt by sound—like bats, only not adorable. Krasinski's clan thus adopts a million neat survival tricks to stay ahead of the game. It's a simple but smart idea, from the clever pathways laid with sand to the series of color-changing lightbulbs strung up around the farm to soundlessly warn of imminent danger.

Krasinski plumbs surprisingly moving emotional depths as a father facing loss who must also prepare his kids for the new world order. Ditto for Emily Blunt, also his real-world wife, who conveys terror sans dialogue in very meaningful and downright stressful ways. The children (Noah Jupe, Suburbicon, and Millicent Simmonds, Wonderstruck) are another story altogether, both in terms of the hammy expressions they lean into and the annoying plot lines with which they're saddled.

Jupe is fine as the token "I'm a-scared!" kid, but Simmonds is particularly bothersome as a melodramatic pre-teen who is deaf (handy, though, since the entire family knows sign language because of it) and definitely blames herself for the film's harrowing opening sequence. While believable that a young girl would be defiant and moody and self-absorbed, it feels false that she would prioritize these feelings over, say, continuing to breathe. Regardless, both Krasinski and Blunt nail the family dynamic, demonstrating just how far a parent would go to protect their brood.

The creature, meanwhile, is the true star of A Quiet Place—a spookily designed monstrosity that harks back to creature-feature horror while asserting its own identity, even if it does owe a debt of gratitude to movie monsters from classics like Alien and Predator. Krasinski and company must be commended for keeping the monster under wraps in the trailers, and trust us—it's definitely scary.

Still, the ultimate resolution isn't quite as satisfying as it could be, and the no-sound shtick comes perilously close to outstaying its welcome, even if it is relatively inventive. As far as simple, atmospheric horror goes, though, you could do a hell of a lot worse than A Quiet Place. Just be prepared for them jump-scares.

7
+Clever idea; Blunt and Krasinski surprisingly riveting

-A number of "Oh, c'mon!" moments

A Quiet Place
Directed by Krasinski
With Blunt, Krasinski, Simmonds and Jupe
Regal, Violet Crown, PG-13, 90 min.