Horror movies have a way of reflecting our ugliest fears (and transgressions) as a nation...
It's no secret horror films are the easiest way for Hollywood to make a quick buck. Decades of box office releases have followed the horror format: A blonde babe running for her life, a masked villain terrorizing the youth and neighbors, and a dash of comic relief to revive those who've grown bored by the second fatality.
As a genre intended to scare and perturb its audience, horror is kind of like fast food. It's good for the first few minutes, but you're left wondering what you could've had if you paid for something else or had the patience to look for other options. Its tricks tire easily, and wasted carbs are no fun. Why there are so many bad horror films, I'm sure, confounds no one; the influx of good ones, however, is turning heads…still. Maybe it took bribing Hollywood with two-day-old hoagies in a large conference room to redirect the genre, but film studios finally realized that, in addition to blood and guts, horror flicks can be intellectual, adult-oriented, cerebral, and even politically charged.
One could correlate the horror genre with current times: the sense of anarchy, the fear of the unknown, and the likelihood that reality, at any moment, could easily turn its head (Annihilation comes to mind). Horror—more than any other genre—reflects the paranoia of culture: Women are given the right to vote and birth controls pills, and film studios make femme-fatales. Apple patents Siri in 2011, and film studios make movies about rogue, intelligent humanoids. #BlackLivesMatter starts trending on Twitter after George Zimmerman is acquitted, and Jordan Peele writes and directs Get Out.
Horror movies have a way of reflecting our ugliest fears (and transgressions) as a nation—a projection of our national subconscious, you could say. The best horror flicks provide a psychological distance between the victim and witness, a simulation of terror without the accompanying consequences of moral bankruptcy.
And what's more terrifying than being alive right now? CNN reported in 2018 alone, there have been 17 school shootings. The impermanence of order, of ethics, is even more apparent these days; Hollywood's mainstream obsession with ominous powers and figures—or 2017's Pennywise—is a response to the real-world phenomenon.
So, naturally, the next critic darling in the horror film lineup, A Quiet Place, directed by John Krasinski—who also stars alongside his real-life wife Emily Blunt—has a lot to live up to. Is it as smart as Get Out, as hair-raising as It, as well-written and chilling as The Babadook. Yes, yes, and yes. A Quiet Place is a horror story about parenting—that is, the horrors of the world that render parents powerless, helpless. Blunt and Krasinski deliver the allegory in such a subtle way, many will think it's another apocalyptic film about alien domination. But minus the obvious (and immersion-breaking CGI), the film is an ode to mothers and fathers who are, ultimately, responsible for teaching their kids how to survive.
Blunt and Krasinski play house with son (Noah Jupe) and daughter (Millicent Simmonds) who is hearing-impaired, soundproofing their house to protect from spider-like aliens (I think?) that are blind and use their acute hearing to hunt prey. One kid down after a fatal mishap, Mom and Dad are hellbent on training their remaining children. Oh, and Mom's pregnant—and yes, she goes into delivery at the worst time. And no, she is not administered an epidural.
What follows is well-crafted, Lovecraftian horror, the kind that makes the audience gasp and giggle anxiously in unison. Survival is synonymous with silence—and the inability to scream proves to be the most unsettling part of the film. The loudest message of all, however, is the family's desire to survive, even in a world that's rotten and not worth living in.
Life, after all, is for the living—even if avocado-skinned aliens are after you. Delivering the type of tension that's sure to stay with you well past the credits, A Quiet Place is a five-star meal, more substantial than a "horror value meal," and a new addition to horror's contemporary golden age.
POP⚡DUST Score: ⚡⚡⚡⚡⚡
Shaun Harris is a poet, freelance writer, and editor published in avant-garde, feminist journals. Lover of warm-toned makeup palettes, psych-rock, and Hilton Als. Her work has allowed her to copy edit and curate content for various poetry organizations in the NYC area.
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