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Film Reviews: A Quiet Place is a roaring triumph

Careless
whisper:
Emily Blunt
is under
siege

THE BIG RELEASE

A Quiet Place

(15) ★★★★★

TAKE the anxiety of keeping a baby quiet on a plane, multiply that by a squillion and you’ll hit the stress levels peaked by heart-stopping horror drama A Quiet Place. Twelve hours after seeing it, I’m still coming down. Breathe… breathe…

We enter the story on ‘Day 89’ after a never-spelt-out apocalypse and meet a mysteriously barefoot family. There’s the reassuringly bearded dad (John Krasinski, directing his third and best film here), his lovely, patient wife (Emily Blunt, Krasinksi’s real-life wife) and their three children (Noah Jupe, Millicent Simmonds and Cade Woodward), one of whom is deaf. Is that why they are ‘speaking’ only in sign language?

No, but it is why they’re still alive. Because this very scary movie’s No.1 rule is that if you make any peep above a whisper, a monster who would give the Alien nightmares pounces out of nowhere and kills you. So cue a big ‘uh-oh’ when Blunt’s character becomes pregnant, birth and babies being notoriously non-quiet things.

A Quiet Place contains hardly any spoken dialogue yet you barely notice (unlike the production design, where they could’ve turned the volume down) because pretty much all you can hear is fear.

True, the high concept is a touch M Night Shyamalan — you kind of have to brush over the niggles and go with its hazy fictional rules. However, the emotional beats are heartfelt, rooted in parental anxiety about protecting offspring, and with the survival stakes kept sky-high from the outset, it’s shockingly unpredictable.

Engaging: Noah Jupe plays Marcus Abbott and John Krasinski plays Lee Abbott

The performances are so engaging you want to marry them, with special mention going to Simmonds (also starring in this week’s Wonderstruck), whose expressive face I could just watch forever. That Simmonds is genuinely deaf, and that Krasinski and Blunt have kids together, lends an extra authenticity to the intimate family drama.

Tension is carefully amplified in this stripped-down scenario up to the halfway point, then the jeopardy ratchets up and doesn’t quit. After a lean 95 minutes, you’ll be spat out, panting and demolished.

The Verdict

A deftly directed high-concept horror you’ll likely enjoy curled in a foetal ball with a fist in your mouth

Wonderstruck

(PG) ★★✩✩✩

YOU never know what to expect from Oscar-nominated indie auteur Todd Haynes — after all, he cast Cate Blanchett as Bob Dylan in I’m Not There. But a kids’ film?

It’s an ambitious one, at least. Based on the illustrated YA novel by Brian Selznick, Wonderstruck is a mystery quest charting two deaf runaways across two different time eras and shot in two contrasting styles. In 1977, a boy (Oakes Fegley) who has recently lost his mother (Michelle Williams) runs away to a fabulously scuzzy New York to find his unknown father.

Meanwhile, in 1927, with scenes shot like a black-and-white silent movie, a girl (Millicent Simmonds) leaves home in search of a famous movie star (Julianne Moore).

Visually it’s a dream, yet unlike its young, expressive leads, this experiment fails to strike a chord.

‘I need you to be patient,’ Moore warns belatedly as the story finally reaches its revelation — to damp fart effect. Like Steven Spielberg without the wonder.

Ghost Stories

(15) ★★★★★

A BUDGET Brit horror starring Paul Whitehouse and Martin Freeman may sound ominous, yet — shock horror! — this is a spine-chiller of the highest order.

Our antihero is Professor Phillip Goodman (Andy Nyman) a middle-aged minor TV celeb who debunks paranormal activities. He is challenged to explain three demonic manifestations which may yet convert him. The ensuing triptych of terror contains Paul Whitehouse (excellent), Freeman (slightly miscast) and the always revelatory one-to-watch Alex Lawther (The Imitation Game).

Co-written and directed by Nyman and The League Of Gentlemen’s Jeremy Dyson from their smash stage show, and with a genuinely haunting pay-off, it’s best relished in a crowd in the dark — not least because it’s way too scary to watch at home on your tod.