We recommend movies to watch after you see John Krasinski’s sci-fi horror film.
Watching A Quiet Place, it feels like a fresh and unique movie about a family’s survival from monsters, even though it’s basically a combination of so many home invasion and alien invasion thrillers. That’s a testament to the way it’s scripted by Bryan Woods and Scott Beck and co-written and directed by John Krasinski, as well as how it’s performed by Krasinski, Emily Blunt, and phenomenal child actors Millicent Simmonds and Noah Jupe. Being derivative doesn’t mean something has to play as overly familiar.
Still, the ingredients of A Quiet Place are worth looking at. A great movie with rich ancestry can inspire us to go back and watch other great movies that came before. With help from Woods, Beck, and Krasinski’s shared influences, I’ve compiled a list of further suggested viewings, including classics, recent features and shorts, and at least one documentary. Honorable mentions can be found throughout, and I’d love to hear from readers with their own recommendations.
The Desperate Hours (1955)
A Quiet Place plays somewhat like a home invasion thriller — or, rather, a farm invasion thriller — but unlike a lot of more exploitative efforts the movie doesn’t get to lean on the usual terrors of the genre. That’s partly because the defenders are a family, who are also working out some of their own issues while dealing with the threat of literal monsters. A Quiet Place is really first about a family of four trying to protect each other while additionally wrought with grief for the time they all failed one of their own in the past.
Not enough invasion thrillers deal with family dramas in the same way for that extra level of tension. Even though the first known example, D.W. Griffith’s 1909 single-reeler The Lonely Villa, works for its family in peril scenario — akin to David Fincher’s Panic Room, it involves a mother and daughters (including Mary Pickford), holing up in a room when their house is taken over by intruders. But there the family patriarch winds up returning to save the day. For the protection of children angle, there’s The Night of the Hunter (with longtime Griffith star Lillian Gish) and for a protective father, the original Cape Fear, two movies starring Robert Mitchum as the baddie. Though the latter isn’t as much a home invasion thriller as a wider-scoped terrorized family thriller.
William Wyler’s The Desperate Hours is a preferred highlight to complement A Quiet Place because it works through a family’s problems, most of them centered on the father (Fredric March), and also is similarly a rare home invasion movie that isn’t confined to a single interior location. Humphrey Bogart leads a trio of escaped convicts who lay siege on the Hilliard clan but because they’re in a neighborhood out of a ‘50s sitcom (literally, it uses Leave it to Beaver exterior sets) there are numerous times where Mom, Dad, Sister, and Brother have to convince people that nothing is wrong inside the house.
The Man Who Knew Too Much (1956)
From master of suspense Alfred Hitchcock, this remake of his own earlier film of the same name stars James Stewart and Doris Day as parents of a child abducted during a vacation trip to Morocco. As part of their efforts to get their son back, they head to London to thwart an assassination plot, which is set to take place at Royal Albert Hall. The plan is for the sound of the shooting to be masked by the louder crash of cymbals. A Quiet Place also involves the concept of certain sounds covering up others, but that’s only partly why The Man Who Knew Too Much is a relevant recommendation. Here’s what Scott Beck told /Film of its influence:
“There’s a great sequence in terms of Jimmy Stewart trying to get away from a pursuer, and we just hear these footsteps coming after him through this echo-y palace. That entire final sequence, which plays to a symphony — and you know at the end of the symphony they’re going to make an assassination attempt, and what’s incredible about that is how it’s not silent in a typical sense. It’s still playing with music in terms of sound design, but you’re watching, visually, all these characters throughout this tension-filled suspense moment. Movies like that were really the ones we came back to.”
In the same interview, Beck and Woods share their love for actual silent films, including the works of Chaplin, Keaton, and Tati, with Woods acknowledging his and Beck’s desire to “make a silent film in a modern-day-genre context.”
Wait Until Dark (1967)
Horror stories tap into our fears, and among those fears are anxieties involving our senses. The fear of the dark has to do with a loss of sight, for instance. A Quiet Place, coming from a parental perspective, deals with a concern that our children are going to be a nuisance or even threat because of their noisiness. Knowing how incapable and oblivious children are regarding silence makes watching some parts of Krasinski’s movie more unnerving.
Then there’s the deaf daughter, whose disability heightens our identification with the fear of limited senses in dangerous situations. We’re scared, mostly for her, during moments where she’s vulnerable because of her deafness, especially when we see a monster nearby that she doesn’t hear or otherwise realize is there. There are other horror films that use deafness as a similar crutch for a character, notably with the 2016 release Hush. And then there are the movies that use blindness for similar reason — Wait Until Dark being the classic example.
This home invasion thriller mainly works because of the Oscar-nominated performance of Audrey Hepburn as the blind protagonist, who has to defeat a trio of burglars once she realizes they’re in her apartment. But the climax also plays with the viewer’s senses when she knocks out all the lights so the three men can’t see either — and neither can we in some parts (audiences were properly warned about this, and marketed to the idea) — giving the woman the advantage. Other movies since have been effective in copying the concept, from The Silence of the Lambs to the recent thriller Don’t Breathe.
An iconic horror blockbuster about a killer shark isn’t the first movie you think of when watching A Quiet Place, and yet it’s one of the new film’s biggest inspirations. According to Bryan Woods (in the /Film interview), he and Beck had the idea to “make sound itself the monster in a movie…make sound the equivalent of the shark in Jaws.” Krasinski has spoken more specifically to his connection with the Steven Spielberg classic. Here’s one excerpt from an IGN interview:
“I knew I wanted to give it more of a classic feel. There’s something about Hitchcock and ‘Jaws’ and ‘Alien’ and other films that weren’t so much about horror as they were suspense and psychological fear. That was really the wellspring of inspiration. I remember ‘Jaws’ was one of the first movies Emily and I watched together. We’d already seen it separately but we watched it together during the first few weeks of us dating and I think by the end of those first weeks we wound up seeing it like eight times. What’s weird about that is that while both of us don’t like to be scared there’s something cool about watching a movie you think is a scary movie but it’s really something else entirely. The more you watch ‘Jaws’ and the more you pay attention, it’s one of the best-written films ever with one of the best setups ever for exploring people’s plight. Really the movie’s about three men dealing with their own fears and what they want to accomplish in their lives and the shark is this backdrop.”
Krasinski isn’t much of a horror fan overall, but he also told IndieWire that he’d seen certain essentials, including Jaws, Alien, and Rosemary’s Baby, and wanted A Quiet Place to have the “classic vibe,” also acknowledging recent horror films he’s seen such as The Witch, Get Out, Let the Right One In, and The Babadook, the last of which also deals with parental drama in the midst of a scary movie plot.
Another person who has spoken of the Jaws inspiration is producer Andrew Form, who told Cinema Blend about this movie’s aesthetic influence on Krasinski:
“Creatively, John was always talking about ‘Jaws.’ From the first conversation we’ve ever had about the movie, he was referencing that film. We’ve all learned that — Brad [Fuller] and I have worked on a lot of these genre films — the less you show the scarier. We really talked about when do you show the creature? How much here or there? That scene in the cornfield with Regan, the daughter, that scene could’ve been two minutes longer with the two of them. It was really talked about, how much to show.”
I also want to recommend Spielberg and Tobe Hooper’s Poltergeist for a very different reason, but it’s also related to Jaws. One of the things I love about A Quiet Place is that the whole family is important to the film. Usually in horror you have kids who are the threat or, if the kids are the protagonists, the parents and other adults are unseen or unsupportive regarding the killer or monster or whatever. In A Quiet Place, the kids and parents are on an equal plain of fear, and all members of the family are respectively portrayed. Spielberg has that also in Jaws, though that’s more about the adults/parents, while Poltergeist is the perfect full family horror movie.
Never mind Carol Anne sometimes being creepy, she’s mostly a normal little girl being taunted by evil spirits. And yes, at first the parents are actually dismissive. But then it ramps up to prey on fears of both children (scary clowns, storms, trees, being lost) and parents (losing your children and being hindered in protecting or saving them). It’s no wonder the PG-rated movie was so popular, since it could appeal to and also scare the crap out of audiences of all ages. A Quiet Place could probably be enjoyed by whole families together, as well, though maybe not with kids as young as the PG rating caters to.
Even if the ending is a little hokey, Signs remains one of M. Night Shyamalan’s better films, from a time when he still seemed by many critics to be the next Spielberg or even Hitchcock. There’s one sequence in this movie where the main characters are hiding from aliens in a dark basement that is incredibly suspenseful every time I watch it. Of course, basements are also the setting of some of A Quiet Place’s most suspenseful moments too.
In fact, the whole setting of A Quiet Place is reminiscent of the farm locations of Signs, from the similarly isolated home to the corn fields, which easily obscure monsters from view or, inversely, provide safety for characters from view by their pursuers. This movie also involves a father who desperately wants to protect his family and a child with a kind of disability (asthma) that winds up being beneficial. In the end, something very specifically harmful to the creatures leads to their defeat, but the one in A Quiet Place makes so much more sense.
10 Cloverfield Lane (2016)
Aliens are invading, and a group of people are hiding out in a bunker to keep safe. That’s the simple premise behind the second and only great Cloverfield movie (so far), and it also sort of applies to the story of A Quiet Place. Their similarities were realized by the screenwriters when they pitched the movie to Paramount and the possibility was raised of their own script being turned into, or somehow being, a part of the Cloverfield franchise too. Scott Beck told /Film:
“That was one of those things that, I guess it crossed our mind and we had spoken to our representatives about that possibility. It was weird timing, though, because when we were writing the script, ‘10 Cloverfield Lane’ was at Paramount. We were actually talking to an executive there about this film, and it felt from pitch form that there might be crossover, but when we finally took the final script in to Paramount, they saw it as a totally different movie. What was really incredible about the process that we feel very grateful for is the studio embraced this weird movie with no dialogue with open arms. They never thought about branding it as a ‘Cloverfield’ film, I think in part because conceptually it was able to stand on its own.”
Thank goodness A Quiet Place didn’t become a Cloverfield film, even if 10 Cloverfield Lane turned out to be great. The new movie is proof that original sci-fi can work without being forced into a franchise, especially if there are horror elements.
Firstly, let me say that having a deaf and/or mute character as a conceit, which seems to be a trend lately with Best Picture winner The Shape of Water, Mute, and A Quiet Place (not to mention Best Live-Action Short Oscar winner The Silent Child), is very exploitative. Yet it also provides an excuse for movies to have more visually dependent storytelling — A Quiet Place more so and better than others — and more physically expressive characters.
It’s more tolerable, particularly to the deaf community, if deaf actors are cast in the roles. Fortunately, A Quiet Place does employ an actual deaf girl in the part of the deaf daughter. Millicent Simmonds previously starred in this under-seen Todd Haynes movie, also as a deaf girl. But there is also another prominent deaf child character not played by a deaf actor. Between Wonderstruck and A Quiet Place, Simmonds shows great promise as a performer and so hopefully she’ll be able to continue to have a career in film suited to her talent. Maybe she can even play hearing characters since so many hearing actors are cast as deaf characters.
In Pursuit of Silence (2017)
The title of this week’s token documentary pick is the goal of the characters in A Quiet Place. They have to be completely silent in order to avoid detection by the monsters, which have a heightened sense of hearing. In Pursuit of Silence, directed by Patrick Shen, focuses on the difficulty to find true silence these days, given how much audio stimulation we have in our lives, from our gadgets to our cars to the buzzing of lights to other unwanted, but increasingly more prevalent and ignorable, sources of noise pollution. But too much noise is supposedly psychologically harming — a sound monster of another kind.
In Pursuit of Silence is best when it just goes into the natural world, sometimes following characters there, to share the sounds of silence. The wind in the trees, the babbling brook, footsteps through the snow. There are also forest meditations and tea rituals showcased in Japan, as well as a young man who communicates by notebook because he’s taken a vow of silence. Ironically there is too much chatter from other talking heads, however. But while I could suggest better docs focused on deaf people, such as the Oscar-winning 1954 short Thursday’s Children and Werner Herzog’s 1971 feature Land of Silence and Darkness, this one at least seemed like one the family in A Quiet Place would appreciate seeing.
Before writing A Quiet Place, Bryan Woods and Scott Beck had apparently been working on something else with a deaf child, a movie based on the “Pied Piper” legend simply titled The Piper. We can imagine what that script was like due to the fact that in one version of the folk tale there’s a deaf child left behind when the title character leads the kids of Hamelin away with his magic flute.
Perhaps The Piper would have been something like Kinderfänger, a horror short made by director Christopher Alender for Eli Roth’s Crypt TV web platform. The six-minute film stars deaf actress Winter Obidos as a deaf girl whose impairment has made her the only local child who hasn’t disappeared. She realizes this when she puts on a hearing aid and is finally lured through a cave by a skeletal, flute-playing demon. The ending has one hell of a twist, so just watch to find out what happens next: