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 SHAPE OF WATER – Del Toro’s romantic fantasy does nothing to blow the dust off a tired, old story.

The name Guillermo Del Toro on a movie fills me with dread.  Unfortunately, not in the way I’d like it to.  Everything about the guy I love – his devotion to horror and sci fi, his adoration of HP Lovecraft matches my own, and he has a collection of props I would kill for.  His traveling exhibit At Home With Monsters was pretty amazing – I took some pics when I went to see it earlier this year, and posted them here.   So yeah, I love Del Toro – unfortunately I think most of his movies stink.

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Movie Review: JUSTICE LEAGUE – DC’s answer to the Marvel juggernaut is phenomenal only for the sheer lack of quality.

I finally saw Justice League last night – on the backs of Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, and Wonder Woman, I can’t say I had a lot of interest in seeing it on opening weekend, and from its relatively disappointing opening domestic gross ($90 million), I wasn’t alone in putting it off.  As it turned out, it was the worst possible night to see it: winter finally roared into the Twin Cities, and driving back to my new home was a tense nightmare, thanks to 25 feet visibility and an icy, sleety mess.  Serves you right, the elements seemed to say, serves you right

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Movie Review: BLADE RUNNER 2049 – a mediocre story is shored up by terrific visuals and a truly impressive score

Mediocre story, you might ask?  How can the movie that has shot into the top 100 sci movies of all time have a “mediocre story”?  How can a movie that has quickly become beloved to many sci-fi fans across the globe be described by anyone as being “mediocre”?  Well, it’s all a matter of opinion, of course.  As in Captain America: Civil War, or the ongoing national debate over Left v Right Twix, this is a movie where, after watching, you’ll definitely feel as if you have chosen a side.

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Movie Review: LIFE – shameless A L I E N ripoff, with characters acting so stupidly you’d think you were watching Prometheus.

Dumb movies are everywhere, it’s a sad fact.  In many cases, the box office reflects it (the recent flop known as Baywatch, for example), because the trailers are completely crap.  Other terrible movies will make a pile of money theatrically because of gee-whizz CGI, like the punishing Transformers series, but those kinds of movies tap into a different kind of vibe.  Sometimes people just want a burger and fries, and don’t care about the content.  While the Transformers movies are not my thing, I’ve had a burger myself a time or two, so I understand the appeal.  But what if you’re not trying to make $1 billion at the box office?  What if you’re trying to make a horror movie to do business in the $150M – $350M range?

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Movie Review: GHOST IN THE SHELL – completely uninteresting adaptation of the famous manga franchise, that plays like bad 80s sci fi.

Ghost In The Shell, Scarlett Johansson’s most recent action movie, can barely be discussed without mentioning the newish cinematic pejorative “whitewashing” as an integral part of any criticism.  I’m not going to put any kind of sociopolitical slant on this review, but if you haven’t heard the term, it refers to white actors being cast in roles that certain groups believe should go to ethnic actors.  It’s not an entirely unfounded criticism (Matt Damon’s recent monster movie The Great Wall was called out for it), and certain movies kinda invite it openly.  Case in point, is Ghost In The Shell, based on the famous manga franchise.  It’s a particularly egregious example – not only does Scarlett Johannson play a character that pretty much should have been played by an Asian actress, but almost all of the main roles are played by white actors.  And they didn’t even bother to switch the action to the west either!

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Movie Review: KONG: SKULL ISLAND – mostly enjoyable franchise reboot, but lack of strong characters don’t do the fantastic visuals any favours

I don’t know exactly how old I was when I saw the original King Kong, but I couldn’t have been any older than five.  I recall with reasonable vividness sitting in front of our black and white TV in the Springburn neighbourhood of Glasgow, Scotland, absolutely enthralled by the sheer spectacle, the charm, of the 1933 production that heralded a new era of moviemaking.  There is likely nobody in the western world who doesn’t know King Kong – even if they have never seen the original, Kong exists among the pantheon of famous movie monsters, along with Godzilla, Freddy Kruger, Jason Voorhees, Frankenstein, and Dracula, to name a few.  Kong has a place in our hearts because he reminds us as ourselves.  Possessed of a humanistic sense of justice and primal strength, Kong represents us – stripped of the daily bullshit and phoniness that we all succumb to, Kong is us laid bare, and mostly shat on by the kind of assholes we have to deal with now and then.  Too high and mighty an opinion for you?  Not a problem – Kong also works as a spectacle monster movie, even when the scripts are no good, the nature of the beast guarantees battles between colossal creatures to feed the eyes.

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