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Postcommunion for the Anniversary of the Dedication of a Church

O God, who of elect and living stones dost fashion for thy divine majesty an everlasting habitation: We beseech thee to assist the supplications of us thy people; that, like as thy Church increaseth in outward and visible habitations, so it may grow and prosper in all inward and spiritual advancement; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Review: "A Quiet Place"

✠ ✠ ✠

Horror seems to be experiencing something of a renaissance. After a decade or three of mostly formulaic and forgettable movies, films like V/H/S, A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night, The Babadook, The VVitch, Hush, The Invitation, and IT are a cut above the jump-scare-bound slasher films and predictable monsters of the nineties. I don’t often see movies while they’re still in the theater, but I went to see A Quiet Place, and loved it.

The premise of the film is that a race of man-eating creatures (whose origin, wisely in my opinion, is never explained) that are blind and hunt by sound have taken over, and those who survive have done so by never making more noise than a whisper, even creating safe outdoor paths out of sand on which they walk barefoot. The story follows a family eking out an agricultural living in the countryside, raising a deaf daughter and a hearing son—and trying to construct a soundproof room in their home, due to the baby they’re expecting. But even before the birth, keeping silent isn’t easy.

The Strong Points

The acting is outstanding at every point, whether spoken or signed. The cinematography is beautiful, taking in great sweeping shots of upstate New York’s forested mountains; the clear autumn sunshine provides a creepy counterpoint to the terror stalking the characters. The use of silence, which so many movies are afraid of, is superb, varying enough with ambient and exceptional sounds to engage the viewer, while still being continuous enough to effectively communicate the sense of massive wariness that is a ceaseless aspect of these characters’ lives. Even small details, like substitute Monopoly pieces made from yarn, are incorporated.

Like Hush, A Quiet Place made innovative use of a deaf protagonist. Ironically enough for a medium that started without sound, there don’t seem to be many of these: The Miracle Worker, The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter, and Children of a Lesser God are the only others I’m familiar with. The film doesn’t (as Lonely Hunter did) break with the not-wholly-satisfying tradition of having the character’s deafness be central to the movie, and perhaps it couldn’t, given its premise; but it does avoid the more blatant pitfall of representing deafness solely as something to be overcome, and gives the character in question opportunities to use it to her advantage in key ways.

The Weak Points

The script isn’t great. The acting and directing compensate considerably; but the dialogue tends to fall victim to cliché in the more emotional moments of the film, which in turn causes their artistry to lurch uncomfortably. The plot, likewise, has some flaws. A few of them are continuity problems (how’d that monster get there?), a few are plausibility problems (why would they have kept batteries in something they’d never use?), and a few are just rather stereotypical story decisions that I was hoping A Quiet Place would be clever enough to avoid.

The biggest flaw, to my mind, however, was the decision to eventually show the monsters not only clearly, but close up. Almost any monster is frightening in proportion to its aura of mystery; but filmmakers love showing off their special effects, and A Quiet Place failed to resist the temptation. The result is that, from being an eerie, unearthly presence that we barely glimpse save by their ravagings early on in the movie, close to the end we get something that sort of looks like a cross between an inside-out ear model and a wet cockroach. Gross, but not nearly as intrinsically scary. A more imaginative cinematography might have allowed the concluding scenes to avoid this.

Should You See It?

Totally. Flaws notwithstanding it is an excellent film, plus John Krasinski with a beard is pretty hot. I place it right on the cusp between B+ and A-, in the same territory as IT.

✠ ✠ ✠

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