Words alone do not do justice to this film. A true game-changer in terms of horror. The typical approach to directing horror films is “quiet, intense music, quiet, LOUD, OH SO LOUD”, replacing genuine terror with jump scares. Which are fine, they scare you during the film, but they don’t completely mess you up and fill you with dread. This film shows the importance of sound in horror, actually, screw that, it’s the importance of sound in cinema in general. It’s a great showcase of the power of cinema, not in a “this film will emotionally devastate you for days” way, but in that it changes the way you watch films. The disadvantages of going to the cinema to watch films normally involve other people: they make too much noise talking or eating or (when I went to see Hunger Games) getting drunk, falling asleep and snoring, then getting annoyed at the cinema staff that they didn’t pause or rewind the film for you (if you think that’s a reasonable request to make: go fuck yourself). This film is different, from my experience (and from what everyone who has seen) everyone in the cinema partakes in an unspoken (hah) pact; if you speak we will hurt you. I haven’t seen a film influence the audience this much since….well, ever. Nobody made a noise, and it was a busy screen. It was actually pretty great, as when there was a loud scene, you could just hear everyone finally open their food/cough etc. When I say “nobody” made a noise, there was a few coughs here or there but that can’t be helped, and if anything, that enhanced the experience. In 1952 John Cage composed the piece 4’33”. It’s basically: everyone in the orchestra puts their instruments down and do nothing for four minutes, thirty-three seconds. The intention is that it makes people listen to the background noise, to make them aware of the atmospheric sounds around this. This film does that, Because the audience noise was so sporadic, when it did happen it wasn’t annoying, it was scary. That’s what makes this film unique, every time you see it will be different because you’ll have to listen to the background noises around you. They’ll be people uncomfortable who’ll be adjusting their position, which creates noise that scares you, that exact scare will never happen again for any other screening, it’s unique to that one experience. It’s a horror movie with audience participation.
It’s not just the sound, the way the film looks is superb too. John Krasinski has done a GREAT job with this. Even more so considering it’s only his third film, and his first horror. Horror is a genre where you need a good director for it to work. Comedy you can kind of get away with it looking bland if the script is good, horror doesn’t allow that, you NEED someone who is a master behind the camera, and the fact he’s this accomplished is a great sign. With him and Jordan Peele doing work like this, this early in their careers, other directors will need to step up their game for their films to be considered great. Films will no longer be allowed to be as cartooney and silly looking as Saw 3D (holy hell that film looks cheap), which is great, as it means more greatness.
His performance was good too. Him and Emily Blunt share an obvious chemistry (can’t imagine why) which really sells their characters plight. He’s been in a lot of other films, but I think THIS is the one where he finally sheds his “Jim from The Office” status. The true star of the film though, is Millicent Simmonds. Not just because it’s good to have an actual deaf person playing a deaf character as opposed to someone with perfect hearing, but because she brings really subtle nuances to the character that just break your heart, and in doing so brings a non-verbal performance that’s up there with Sally Hawkins in The Shape Of Water. Also she made a few script alterations that improved it a lot. Adding “I’ve always loved you” to a father saying “I love you” to his daughter, which added SOOOOO much.
This is the best time to mention the sign language in this film. Due to both a character being deaf, and the fact the characters can’t make noise, sign language plays an important part in this film. And this is where the film does something which turns it from good to great; the characters all sign in their own unique way. Some characters sign very poetically and flow, showing the importance of beautiful language, whereas some sign very short and curt, like they’re in the military.
So yeah that’s it. Watch this film, then watch it again, and again. It has an absolutely heartbreaking moment in it, features an elderly character committing suicide over the death of his wife, and it kills a child before the opening credits, this is a film that truly gives absolutely zero shits about your comfort, and is all the better for it.