John Krasinski feels a parent's horror in A Quiet Place

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      In A Quiet Place, survivors on a desolate, postapocalyptic Earth must live life in near silence lest they attract the attention of a flock of supernatural monsters that hunt—and kill—by sound. For one unnamed brood of four, this means taking measures as extreme as padding barefoot on trails covered with noise-absorbing sand, replacing clattering tableware with large leaves, and communicating strictly in American Sign Language.

      So, as an active and inquisitive viewer, you can’t help but find it a little—okay, maybe extremely—irresponsible when Mom and Dad agree to (spoiler alert!) bring another child into this wretched world. Yes, a living, breathing being that will, presumably, spend the first three years of its existence embodying the antithesis of quiet: crying, shrieking, and yelping at decibel levels incomprehensible to those unfamiliar with the joys of parenthood. It’s a judgment not lost on John Krasinski, who serves as director, screenwriter, and star of this mostly wordless horror flick.

      “It’s so funny that you bring that up, because it’s one of my favourite things to talk about,” Krasinski enthuses, on the line from Toronto. “I love the discussion that’s been going back and forth because, to me, it wasn’t a conscious choice.…[There’s] this idea that something happened and there are only a few ways to deal with it. And they [the family] chose the one way that was right for them. Or what they believed was right for them.”

      Questionable family planning aside, A Quiet Place, opening Friday (April 6), is packed with the kind of smart, tension-building resolves that are sure to thrust the man beloved as The Office’s Jim Halpert into—who knew?—“filmmaker to watch” territory. Playing the protective patriarch in his major-studio directorial debut, Krasinski presents a tightly edited story in almost complete silence, employing lingering shots and the eerie, magnified tones of Mother Nature to create suspense. So sparse are sound and dialogue, in fact, that even the crashing of a lantern to the floor is enough to plunge audiences—now privy to what draws the film’s murderous clawed creatures—into a pool of dread.

      “A lot of these big-budget movies…have so much sound coming at you at all times, you’re almost cringing in your seat,” Krasinski notes. “And then you realize that taking sound away is just as assaulting. It’s almost as unnerving or just as scary, so it was really, really fun to play with.”

      Of course, Krasinski also had plenty of assistance from his young, wildly expressive cast. The self-described scaredy-cat, who admits he was no fan of horror pictures growing up, took care to hire a deaf actor to play his on-screen daughter, who is deaf and wears a hearing aid. He found her in 14-year-old Millicent Simmonds, whom he now calls his “spirit animal”. And then there’s Krasinski’s IRL partner, actor Emily Blunt, who offered to tackle the part of mother and wife after reading the script he reworked.

      “I know it sounds like a line, but it [her asking for the role] was the greatest compliment to my career,” he says, “because I’ve witnessed firsthand how unbelievably specific she is in her decisions, what level of taste she has, and why she commits to the things she does. So I was blown away.”

      Blunt’s involvement in the production only helped to amplify A Quiet Place’s surprisingly touching core: family. It’s a theme that resonates strongly with Krasinski, not least because he welcomed his second daughter with Blunt shortly before receiving the preliminary script. “It hit me right in the chest,” the affable actor-director shares. “This idea of this family not being able to make any sound in order to survive—and that every day could be their last—was so powerful, so palpable to me because I was living it. I was actually in the throes of early parenthood, that terrifying moment of: ‘Can I keep this baby safe? Can I keep this baby alive? Am I a good enough person or human being to be this person’s father?’ ”

      Krasinski hopes that the scares in A Quiet Place, like those in some of his favourite horror movies and thrillers (Jaws, Rosemary’s Baby, Get Out), are just one part of a story that sticks with viewers long after they leave the theatre. Given the standing ovation the film garnered at its South by Southwest premiere in March—and the critical acclaim it’s been met with since—the burgeoning director may just get his way.

      “The thing that’s most moving to me is that people get it,” Krasinski says. “They’re not just saying, ‘Oh, it’s really scary. I had a lot of fun.’ People are really feeling the deeper emotional stuff. It’s just such a huge compliment.”

      Follow Lucy Lau on Twitter @lucylau.