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‘A Quiet Place,’ written and produced by Iowans, was made for thriller fans

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Millicent Simmonds in “A Quiet Place.” — film still

Fans and film critics haven’t kept quiet about A Quiet Place since its theatrical release on April 6. It currently maintains a 96 percent approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes, with audiences giving it an average rating of 4.3 out of 5.

The suspense-thriller raked in $50 million in its first weekend against a $17 million budget, and is bound to ride its wave of success into another profitable weekend.

Perhaps the highest praise came from the king of horror himself:

…to which director and star John Krasinski replied in adorable fashion, “Brain…not processing. Uh oh—don’t black out John, don’t black out— …too late.” You just want to jump through Twitter and give him a congratulatory slap on the back.

Even before seeing the film, I was basking in its glow. As satisfying as box office bloodsport can be — watching misguided tentpole films fail as you chuckle knowingly, twirl your armchair-film-critic’s mustache and continue to withhold your coveted consumer dollars — it’s much more fun to watch a film succeed, and anticipate your enjoyment of it.

I’m a fan of The Office, and happy to see Krasinski make the Jordan Peele jump from TV comedy to horror filmmaking — starring alongside his wife, Emily Blunt, no less. I love horror films, and love when that love is validated by buzzworthy entries to the genre.

The fact Millicent Simmonds, a deaf actress, plays such a pivotal role — and the cast’s heavy use of American Sign Language — makes A Quiet Place significant from a representation standpoint. And, of course, the concept is big draw: After a mysterious apocalyptic event, a family must live in silence, under threat of violent death. It spelled Hush levels of auditory suspense.

Moreover, there are Iowans at the heart of the film! Bryan Woods and Scott Beck of Bettendorf conceptualized and wrote A Quiet Place and sold the screenplay to Paramount before Krasinski was even brought on board. The script was inevitably tweaked before hitting the big screen (Krasinski is credited as a third screenwriter), but Woods and Beck, through their production company Bluebox Films, were involved the whole way as executive producers. #IowaPride

Then I saw the film. Don’t worry, I’m not here to burst bubbles — sure enough, it was great. I was thoroughly entertained, and lucky enough to share the theater with a matinee audience of only about 10 people (noisy popcorn crunching and soda slurping during the silent scenes were minimal).

But I let my expectations rise a little too high, of course. I came to terms within the first 30 minutes that A Quiet Place wasn’t going to transcend the genre or (probably) secure Woods and Beck a ticket to the Oscars. But this film is fun, in that it’s unsettling, suspenseful, engaging and will make you inhale your popcorn so fast you feel sick (speaking from experience).

Without giving anything away, the film follows the Abbott family, who has managed to adapt to survive a world overrun with blind, cheetah-fast, blood-thirsty monsters who hunt by sound alone. About a year and half since the world went to shit, the mother (Blunt) is heavily pregnant — I hope by accident because why oh why would you bring a screaming infant into this silent post-apocalyptic nightmare? — and the father (Krasinski) is eager to teach his preteen/teen children how to fend for themselves and protect the family. Unlike other monster-dodging films like Alien, the setting is beautiful and lush: we see forests, rivers, waterfalls and the family’s cozy farm, lit by Christmas lights. In a film sparse with sound, A Quiet Place serves a sufficient visual meal.

I can compare it best to Signs, Stranger Things and the first two seasons of The Walking Dead. The chilling, pre-title-card opening scenes — taking place only 89 days after the monster invasion — have It vibes. There’s a lot of Stephen King-ness here, in both its achievements and flaws.

The mechanics of the plot are visible: A Quiet Place follows a tried-and-true thriller format, where complicated family dynamics underscore rising action and eventual mahem. I wish Krasinski and his team had worked in a few more surprises, and resisted the urge to show their CGI creature (I’m a firm believer that invisible monsters are the scariest). But at a restrained 90 minutes, A Quiet Place gives you plenty of return on your investment. You can’t help but lean in, warily, and listen.

A Quiet Place is in theaters now.


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