Movie Review: THE QUIET PLACE – to hell with the Rotten Tomatoes rating, this generic PG-13 horror movie is mediocre with flashes of abject laziness.

I have to say, when I saw the trailer for A Quiet Place a few months ago, my reaction was pretty muted.  It looked like it might be okay, but nothing that was going to make an impact either at the box office, or a lasting impression in the minds of those who went to see it.  Well, I can tell you that as far as Your Humble Narrator is concerned, I was spot on, but I’m clearly in the minority with my opinion, just like how I was with Veronica, a mostly blah horror movie with a legion of fans that loved it.  There’s no right or wrong opinions about movies, and I’m not so inclined to question the taste of people who like movies I don’t,  but I just can’t understand the high ratings for this movie.

As anyone who regularly stops by to read my reviews, you’ll know I admit to being very particular about horror movies.  I’m not looking for gore, and no horror movie has scared me since I was a kid, so I’m looking for atmosphere and character overall.  You want examples of this: The Witch, and very recently, Pyewacket.   But I’m also looking for authenticity, meaning: does it feel right to me?  Even though I don’t believe in anything, whether it be aliens, or ghosts, or magic, I need to believe in the world of the movie, and the goings on in it.  Of course, I’m very capable of suspending my disbelief, otherwise I wouldn’t enjoy any movie, but some movies I can buy, some I can’t, and The Quiet Place was one I just couldn’t buy.

The story is this: subsequent to the arrival on the Earth’s surface of vicious, voracious creatures who only have a hyper-sensitive sense of hearing with which to detect prey, a family try to survive on a remote farm while the world has seemingly been ravaged by the creatures, and the only way to do this is by living a silent lifestyle.  The Abbott family is led by Lee and Evelyn (real life husband and wife John Krasinsky and Emily Blunt), with kids Regan (Millicent Simmonds) and Marcus (Noah Jupe), and after a tragic opening that sees them leading a nomadic life, the rest of the movie takes place on a rural farm.

My misgivings about the integrity of the story started very quickly.  The entire premise of the movie is DO NOT MAKE A SOUND OR YOU WILL BE KILLED.  That’s it.  It’s simple and there’s nothing to clarify, and as shown many times in the movie, the parents spend lots of time emphasizing that one, single key to survival, yet the rules are broken time and time again, either willingly (which leads to the tragedy at the beginning), or with such reckless abandon (a pregnancy, a nail – which I’ll get to – the carelessly placed lamp from the trailer) that I began to wonder what was in the minds of the writers to create characters that seem so smart and cautious, only to have them act so dumb.  The answer, of course, is to generate contrived dramatic situations, and this is one contrived movie from beginning to end.

As well as this, I found many logistical issues with the premise.  A newspaper headline screams “IT’S SOUND!” implying that Earth has been under heavy attack for some time – yet this newspaper was not only able to run its printing presses at  a feverish pitch in order to get the word out, but trucks would be needed to  get the actual papers delivered.  That didn’t make any sense to me at all.  People are still doing their jobs when monsters are roaming the streets?  Still going out to get the paper?  Nit picky?  Hey, I never said I wasn’t.  And then there’s the farm the Abbotts have come to live on – those grounds are pretty well tended, considering the creatures can hear the tiniest sound …  And on this farm there was a nail, EE I EE I OWW!  This scene drove me crazy.  The nail is poking up a good inch and a half from a stairway that is clearly used a lot – if you’re casing the place for things that could cause you to make a sound (and the movie has very particular scenes of the family doing its best to soundproof the place), you don’t miss that nail.  You just don’t.  Yet somehow, they do.  Because the writers needed drama.  I’ll give out a rare spoiler, though if you haven’t seen the movie, you’ve already guessed what happens from this paragraph.  Someone stands on it.  And literally, from that point on, all I could think of was that every time someone, or something, descended those steps to the basement, they’d stand on it, like that visual gag of someone stepping on all of the garden rakes surrounding him and getting whacked in the face by the handles.  It was such a dumb element of the movie that it completely ruined the credibility of the characters for me, thus my interest in the movie was lost forever.

Another infuriating aspect was the creatures themselves.  Look, I don’t need to know where they came from, I don’t need some kind of pre-credit sequence of them bursting forth from the Earth’s bowels, or hitchhiking to Earth on some passing asteroid … but I definitely need to hear characters that are thinking “WHAT THE FUCK IS HAPPENING HERE” and speculating, like any sane human would do, even if just for the sake of the audience.  There was also the problem I had about their super-hearing.  It’s completely and utterly non-discriminating.  They evolved somewhere with just the power of hearing, yet it’s completely useless when there are louder sounds nearby.  So you can talk by a country river or a waterfall because these monsters won’t be able to separate the sound of a prey animal from the naturally occurring sounds of nature?  Yeah, that’s shitty writing.  And nobody has figured out that surrounding, say, a country home, with some high quality speakers  will increase your survival odds mightily?  And these monsters took down humanity (well, it’s implied, at least)?  I just can’t buy it.  With all the scientists on Earth, with so many sound engineers on Earth, absolutely nobody figured out how to stop  these things before they decimated the planet?  Nope, it’s utterly unbelievable.

And may I say, the creature design is straight from whatever Monster Design 101 class exists in the CGI world.  They’re just the same kind of faceless shouty/roary thing you’ve seen in the movies for almost 20 years now, scaled down.  Think the monster from Cloverfield, the Kraken from the Clash of the Titans remake.  Boring, uninspired, and lazy.

But c’mon man, what about the movie itself?  Krasinski does a fine directing job, and while the writing is mostly awful, there are some effective scenes sprinkled throughout, and the performances are much better than the script needs them to be – but these are the tiny nuggets you can see shining in a deep bucket of dross.  Overall, it’s not a terrible movie, but there’s no way I can buy that it was ever 100% fresh on the Tomatometer.

2.5/5.0

© Andrew Hope, 2018

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Movie Review: THE BOOK OF HENRY – the headlines are spot on. This movie is MST3K-awful, thanks to one of the worst screenplays in recent memory.

If it somehow seems unfair that so many people are piling on The Book Of Henry, I’m unashamed to say that not only is it completely fair, but it’s almost a civic duty to do so: the movie is absolutely awful.  And I don’t say that with any glee.  Most of the time, I’m angry when I have to give a bad review, because I genuinely love cinema, and it gives me no pleasure to rip a movie.  Some other critics take great pains to explain how terrible certain movies can be, but they do it with a great deal of panache and irony that it strikes me that if they were not turning their poisoned pens on movies it would be – and probably is – something else.  Me, I just get angry.

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Movie Review: 99 HOMES – compelling drama told within the recent global meltdown, featuring standout performances by Andrew Garfield and Michael Shannon

There’s a scene in The Big Short where three of the protagonists fly to Florida to see for themselves just how quickly the housing market is approaching critical mass, and when they get there and cagily discuss the situation with two clueless douchebro real estate investors, they leave convinced that all the projections they’ve been privy to are actually on the level.  It’s one of the best scenes in the movie, and in a weird way, it reminded me of movies where a team of biologists try to track down the source of a disease outbreak.  Considering how the collapse of the sub-prime mortgage market triggered a global meltdown, the disease analogy seems pretty apt.

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Movie Review: CAPTAIN FANTASTIC – Viggo Mortenson’s beautifully nuanced performance isn’t the only great thing about this heartwarming family drama

captain_fantastic

There’s a scene in Captain Fantastic towards the midpoint of the movie where Ben Cash (Viggo Mortenson) asks his daughter to explain what the book she’s reading is about.  The book is Nabokov’s Lolita, and when she begins, he cuts her off.  “That’s the plot,” he says, which forces her to go into greater depth in her explanation.  Why am I starting out with this?  Because this is a movie that is a great example of plot versus story.  It’s not unfair to look at every blockbuster over the last few decades and say that they’re not actually about anything.  You can daisy-chain their plot points together and they tell a rudimentary “this happened, then this happened” etc, but the stories themselves lack dimension.  Great movie stories are “about” something more than just what’s happening visually.  The best screen stories are those that can be about multiple topics revolving around a central hub.  This is what I felt while watching Matt Ross’s luminous movie.

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