Shhh!

October 14, 2019

 

You may have noticed. Blind predators are rare, and for good reason. Sight is the dominant sense, and for good reason: it’s the most useful of the senses. There are no effective land predators that are blind. The monsters in ‘A Quiet Place’ are, presumably, blind. At least they seem to rely almost entirely on their hearing. They even seem to be unable to smell prey when it’s in front of them. So how well would a predator like the monsters in A Quiet Place fare against the US military? Right.

 

But let’s get to other stuff first.

 

Dialogue is certainly a last resort in good film and TV screenplays (though it’s to some degree film genre dependent). Less chat is more meaning. It’s obvious. A Quiet Place, however, demonstrates the need for dialogue as means to express emotion. A Quiet Place is too quiet. The enforced silence of the world of this film makes it, at times, a drag. The film lacks the means to communicate emotional and logistical essentials to the audience as, say, Alien (1979) did. Indeed Alien is a wonderful way to demonstrate what’s wrong with A Quiet Place.

 

The Abbot family live their lives shoeless. This, presumably, is so that the monsters are less likely to hear them as they move around; but good sneakers are just as quiet as bare feet. And bare feet are vulnerable, as adduced by Emily Blunt’s character Evelyn Abbot standing on a very obvious nail as she descends steps down into the house basement. She stands, barefoot, on a nail, presumably to increase her pain, and thus the challenge of remaining soundless while she gives birth.

 

Giving birth in silence is a tremendous plot point. It’s original, and it affords so much potential for showcasing Emily Blunt’s superb acting and driving tension; but Evelyn giving birth without screaming (having just stood on a needless nail) is a missed opportunity: it amounts to little more than some grimacing and some blood in the bath. This should have been at least ten minutes of tension and visceral drama. It passed almost unnoticed, however, and the baby seemed to forget how to cry (and thus attract the monsters with sound) when it wasn’t convenient for it to cry, too. This is another wasted opportunity. Baby cries-all-die-baby-silent-all-live is a stunning conundrum, which this film wastes.

 

To rewind: giving birth silently is enough of a thing. It’s an amazing thing. The thing with the nail in Evelyn’s foot is surplus to requirements. It doesn’t add to the drama of the scene/s. It actually serves to detract from the challenge (and dramatic possibilities) of a silent childbirth with a monster breathing down your neck. It’s unnecessary. Why then does it happen?

 

The basement Evelyn is in when giving birth and trying to not get eaten (with her baby) by the monsters is flooded, too – though it’s unclear why or how. Worse, the floodwater just vanished, and therefore does the danger and thus tension it is intended to bestow upon the film. Like the nail in the stairs that Evelyn stands on, the flood is unnecessary because we have monsters. Like the nail, the flood doesn’t add to the drama of the scene/s. It actually serves to detract from it/them – even more so because the flood mysteriously vanishes.

 

Near the end, John Krasinski’s character John Abbot sacrifices himself so his children can survive; but there are at least hundreds of monsters (presumably hundreds of thousands, or millions, if they have overrun America or the world); so in fact John Abbot betrays his children by sacrificing himself. His sacrifice is illogical: dead, he can no longer protect his family. So having spent much of the film telling his children he loves them, he then tells them he doesn’t love them by abandoning them.

 

With John dead, his deaf daughter Regan (well-played by Millicent Simmonds) figures out (by way of a feedback whistle in her hearing aid), that the way to take down the super-hearing monsters is to broadcast loudly a device that screams electronically over the PA system like her hearing aid did. We are left to assume that this has thus killed the monsters that approach. But what about the monsters that will, presumably, replace them? And how didn’t the noise of civilisation and/or the military resistance to their invasion kill them too?

 

I so wanted this film to work. I have much respect for John Krasinski and Emily Blunt, and the screenwriters of A Quiet Place have excellent credentials. I’m sure they are very capable writers. I know from personal experience with Minotaur (2006), which I worked on for some years, writing 7 drafts of the screenplay, but so much not the shooting script. The script that made it into production had nothing left of my input in it; yet my name is on the credits to that film. So basically … don’t blame we screenwriters if a film doesn’t stack up!

 

I list a few of the shortcomings of A Quiet Place not to impugn the producers of the film or anyone involved with it, but to suggest you avoid making mistakes like these in your screenplay. If you are below the threshold that makes film financing and packaging doable, you’ll need to get everything right in your screenplay as you try to get your foot in the door. It's very hard to open.

 

Why not come up with an alternative plot for A Quiet Place and send it over? I’ll give you my thoughts.

 

Happy screenwriting.

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