An artfully-crafted and cleverly designed horror film driven by intense white-knuckle suspense from the talents of John Krasinski, A Quiet Place is actually a drama about overcoming a family tragedy told in the guise of a horror movie. The film escapes detection on 4K Ultra HD with a lovely Dolby Vision HDR presentation, a superb demo-worthy Dolby Atmos track, and a disappointing set of bonus features, but the overall package is nonetheless Recommended.
We have also reviewed this film on Blu-ray.
A Quiet Place is an artfully-crafted and cleverly designed horror film from the imagination of someone genre fanatics never would have expected. Before taking directorial duties for what has already made the top list of best and smartest horror flicks of the year — and even of recent memory — John Krasinski, known for playing the lovable prankster Jim Halpert on The Office, helmed a pair of dramedies, which further adds to the surprise. Then again, he brings that experience and appreciation to storytelling to this tale about a family struggling to survive humanity's extinction, and at the same time, he demonstrates a perceptive aptitude for white-knuckle suspense that's emotionally-driven and harrowing. In the opening moments, without a character uttering a word, Krasinski shows a family scavenging through a drug store, communicating only in sign language. Headlines provide a general idea of a world invaded by aliens with acutely-sensitive hearing, and then tragedy strikes when the youngest is swiftly attacked by one such creature.
Not only is Krasinski expertly setting the tone for the remainder of the film, but he and his team of talented filmmakers are also grounding the story with verisimilitude in a matter of fewer than five minutes, which is pretty remarkable. Expositional details are supplied visually with a few cunningly designed auditory cues for that sense of realism — the mild clacking of drug bottles as the mom (Emily Blunt) hunts for medicine, the soft pattering of footsteps running on sand and the rustling of leaves in the distance. We're kept in the dark of why this family is vigilant and persistent in being quiet, a mystery that later extends to the origins of the alien monsters, which for this horror fan, I love knowing little to nothing. The amount of silence is so unusual and uncommon in modern productions that it quickly establishes an unsettling atmosphere of apprehension, a constant thick air of dread the generates both fear and curiosity of what would happen if a children's toy were to suddenly go off. Why is the dad (Krasinski) so rigorously stringent on ensuring we never find out?
It's a strikingly innovative approach for pulling audiences into this reality because when the silence is finally broken, we immediately understand the danger without realizing we also forgot to breathe during that dreadful, nail-biting minute. And this opening sequence also plays a profoundly crucial role in the film's overall central theme: the endless ordeal of being a parent — the constant, never-ceasing fear of failing to protect one's child. A Quiet Place is actually a drama about overcoming a family tragedy told in the guise of a horror movie, about a loss that can scar everyone deeply and possibly lead to a festering wound that could infect the well-being of the entire family if left ignored. And the brilliance of Krasinski's film is a family living an existence where they can't talk, basically forced to ignore their problems and never truly allowed the opportunity to grieve or address the pain they're suffering. Understood this way, the poignant story becomes all the more heartbreaking in those brutally gut-wrenching final moments.
Essentially, the plot is a marvelous blend of Don't Breathe and the first half of Wall•E meets the horror video game The Last of Us, almost as though Krasinski and co-writers Bryan Woods and Scott Beck were inspired by all three during a Friday night marathon. And like those three, A Quiet Place is layered with other underlining concerns shrouded in this idea of never really talking. When Blunt's character shares her hear of protecting their children Regan (Millicent Simmonds) and Marcus (Noah Jupe), there is a sense she's expressing more than a literal fight against hungry monsters. As working middle-class parents, there is also the anxiety of having the resources to protect one's kids from those intent on causing harm, the endless worry of providing a stable, safe home that shields the kids from the world's suffering, and the incessant doubt one is raising their kids into healthy, capable adults. And the filmmakers splendidly capture and express the drama of these anxieties as terrifyingly grotesque monsters threatening the security of home.
Vital Disc Stats: The 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray
Paramount Home Entertainment brings A Quiet Place to 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray as a two-disc combo pack with an UltraViolet Digital Copy, which can be redeemed via ParamountMovies.com, allowing owners to watch a 1080p HD copy with Dolby Digital Audio. However, iTunes and Vudu users can unlock 4K streaming rights with Dolby Vision (and Dolby Atmos audio for Vudu). The dual-layered UHD66 and Region-Free BD50 discs sit on opposing panels of a black, eco-vortex case with glossy slipcover. At startup, viewers are taken directly to a static screen with the usual selection along the bottom and music playing in the background.
Silence is truly golden on 4K Ultra HD thanks to a lovely and great-looking HEVC H.265 encode that offers an excellent step-up over its Blu-ray counterpart. It's not a massive jump forward, but the difference is nonetheless notable and more than satisfying, making it the preferred method of enjoying the film.
Coming from a 35mm source that was later mastered to a 2K digital intermediate, the freshly-minted 2160p transfer is highly-detailed for a majority of the runtime, exposing each grain of sand and tiny clump of dirt along the family's hiking path. Individual hairs and leaves sway in the wind distinctly, the fine lines and wood grain of the house and the bark of trees are striking, and the stitching and threading in the clothing are very well-defined. However, as with the 1080p version, there are a few moments that noticeably dip in resolution, most of which are extreme long shots and likely the result of the creative choices in the cinematography, but they are more apparent and somewhat distracting here. Nevertheless, a visibly thin and stable grain structure, which can be a bit more prominent during several wide shots at night, which is a big chunk of the movie, provides a beautiful film-like quality.
Presented in its original 2.39:1 aspect ratio, the 4K presentation comes with a slightly warmer than normal contrast balance, which tends to lightly bloom some of the hottest areas. For all intents and purposes, this appears to be a deliberate visual style meant to reflect the family's hot country surroundings and appears faithful to what I remember seeing in theaters. In either case, whites are crisp and beaming, enough to make some squint at the screen as the sun's rays or flashlights shine directly into the camera. Specular highlights are quite as dramatic due to the filmmaker's creative choices, as the brightest spots are any more revealing, but the light reflecting off the edges of various surfaces are resplendent and glisten with intensity, particularly in those sequences with cloudy, overcast days like the scene with dad giving Regan a new cochlear implant.
Charlotte Bruus Christensen's cinematography also slightly skews the film's teal-orange palette, which is made all the more apparent in Dolby Vision, arguably making this HDR version an accurate reflection of those artistic preferences. Perfectly reflecting the hot, sunny summer climate of the region, the screen is continuously bathed in vividly sultry yellows and comforting, homely earth tones while the greens in the surrounding foliage are livelier and more animated. More emphasis is placed on the secondary hues where viewers can better appreciate the beautiful array of balmy oranges, soft pinks and velvety violets blending into dark magentas and the deep indigo blue of the night sky, turning twilight sunsets into stunning picturesque landscapes. Of all the primaries, reds receive a generous boost, showering the last quarter of the movie with a hauntingly dramatic crimson glow while blood is a deeper shade of garnet and ruby.
Thankfully, brightness levels are not affected by the stylized photography, which is important in a movie mostly unfolding at night. Deeply rich and silky blacks are in abundance and show distinct gradational differences between the various shades, providing the image with appreciable dimensionality. Meanwhile, inky, dismally bleak shadows penetrate deep into the background, but sadly, the finer aspects are occasionally engulfed by the pitch-black darkness. On the majority, this is not an issue of concern, but it does happen from time to time and worth noting. (Video Rating: 84/100)
The fight for survival breaks the silence with a fantastically thrilling, reference-quality Dolby Atmos soundtrack that marvelously takes full advantage of the object-based format like few movies do. To be fair, the design creatively utilizes silence and noise for generating a particular aural experience. It's not meant for bombarding the audience with the typical chaotically frightening mayhem expected of the genre, of which there are a few, but for creating an authentic environment with a continuous sense of dread and apprehension. So, various ambient effects, like the rustling of leaves, birds chirping or crickets singing in the distance, are endlessly occupying the surrounds and the ceiling channels, providing a splendidly immersive hemispheric soundfield. Better still, the best demo-worthy moments are those when the creatures are on the prowl or to give a greater sense of their menacing size. Their hungry growls and slow, determined footsteps flawlessly pan from the sides and rears into the back heights and continue directly overhead into the fronts.
For a movie with a carefully orchestrated audio design emphasizing silence, the screen feels endlessly alive with lots of background activity and bustling with a variety of atmospherics that convincingly travel into the off-screen space. Many of those same effects and the ominous music of Marco Beltrami spreads across the three front channels and top heights, generating a highly engaging and spacious half-dome soundstage that never seems to give the listener a true moment of peace. An extensive and dynamic mid-range exhibits superb clarity and definition during the loudest, ear-piercing moments, revealing exceptional distinction in the deafening howls of the creatures and their echo-location clicks while also delivering outstanding warmth and fidelity during the quieter sequences. The few bits of dialogue are precise and intelligible with remarkable intonation while an appreciably robust and often wall-rattlingly aggressive low-end provides a great deal of presence and weight to the creatures, occasionally sending a couch-rumbling boom that nicely energizes the entire room. (Audio Rating: 96/100)
Reading the Quiet (HD, 15 min): Standard EPK-like featurette made of BTS footage and cast & crew interviews discussing the plot, its themes, the performances and other aspects of the production.
The Sound of Darkness (HD, 12 min): As the title implies, a short piece on creating and editing the sound design with particular attention on the film's creative effects, lack of dialogue and the ominous musical score.
A Reason for Silence (HD, 8 min): Devoted to the specifics of designing the alien creatures.
An artfully-crafted and cleverly designed horror feature, A Quiet Place is a quietly layered film with poignant underlining concerns shrouded in the innovative idea of never talking, a drama about overcoming a severely-wounding family tragedy told in the guise of a horror movie. Writer and director John Krasinski splendidly captures and expresses parental anxieties as terrifyingly grotesque monsters threatening the security of home, making it the one of the best horror films of the year and of recent memory. The film tries to escape detection on 4K Ultra HD with a lovely Dolby Vision HDR presentation that offers a notable improvement over its HD SDR counterpart and a superbly thrilling, demo-worthy Dolby Atmos soundtrack. In spite of a lackluster set of supplements, the package is nonetheless recommended for horror-hounds, UHD enthusiasts hungry for more HDR goodness and audiophiles ravenous for a satisfying aural experience.