I had more than a hint of trepidation when I went to watch this film at half past ten at night last Bank Holiday Monday. Not only was this largely due to the frankly startling trailer which launched to much silent hype a few weeks ago, heralding the arrival of an audacious concept in film-making (a modern, silent horror film), but also due to my realisation that much of the tension and skin-crawling terror that the film would work very hard to build up would inevitably be instantly undone by the sound of people chatting amongst themselves (my cinema pet peeve), opening packets of sweets and crunching on popcorn.
Fortunately in the showing I went to, my fears were totally unfounded (helped largely by an ingenious cinema noise warning advert before the film, which effectively embarrassed people away from talking during the film… before it had even began!).
Yes, there were large swathes of the film where the audience totally respected the film’s need for silence and acted accordingly! People ate quietly during the noisy bits, didn’t talk, play with their phones, etc.
The audience just ‘got’ it. You could hear a pin drop in the cinema during certain scenes, which (pun intended) is unheard of.
I really hope everybody gets to experience this instant horror classic in the same way I did, because it is absolutely terrific.
Plunging us head-first into Day 89 of a global catastrophe of which little-to-no back story is provided – keep your eyes peeled on the newspaper clippings on the walls – this is one audacious and startlingly inventive horror-thriller that does not hang about.
Clocking in at a lean, mean and quite terrifying 90 minutes, this film pitches the viewer along on a near-relentless onslaught of a ghost-train ride of jump-scares and superbly mounted tension which had me jumping out of my seat throughout.
The film is directed, co-written, produced and starred in by American comedy actor John Krasinski (after the late Robin Williams, and Jordan Peele’s excellent ‘Get Out’ proving that comedians can often produce terrific horror). He solidly directs his real-life wife Emily Blunt as his on-screen Wife, giving the isolated farm-house horror a fresh new spin here which the give-away tag line can, well, give away (I won’t be!).
Adding his real life Wife into the terror also really adds great empathy for the characters, helping the audience to geniunely care what happens to them and heightens the emotional heft of their terrifying ordeal.
The already-audacious horror is also to be commended for placing a hearing-impaired character front and centre rather than just in the ‘child-in-peril’ role and Krasinski lobbied hard to have genuinely deaf actress Millicent Simmonds in the film and through an ironic twist, she actually proves to be the most important character, much like in the under-rated horror ‘Reeker’ (2005), which put a blind character as the hero of the show. This also only serves to add to the originality of the whole experience.
The clearly-visible progression of the characters only serves to increase the impending dread, particlarly for Blunt when it becomes patently obvious her whole world is about to change with no obvious resolution in sight.
The ingenious concept of the film is no gimmicky fluke either. It is clear from the off-set that this film has been very carefully mapped out from start to finish.
From removing batteries in noisy toys in a deserted shop at the start of the film to the permanent home-made sand-paths the characters tread softly on throughout the film, this film is packed with inventive ideas and clever scenes that only make sense as the film comes together.
There are a few genuinely touching and sympathetic scenes which do contain dialogue (you’ll see how) and these really help the audience care for the family, as well as filling out their back story somewhat.
For this film, I highly recommend catching a late-night showing with as few people in it as possible to heighten the silence and minimise the chances of the audience not ‘getting’ (or caring about) the concept of the “required” silence during the film.
A terrifically tense and relentlessly scary horror-thriller that easily ranks as one of the very best of the last twenty years (along with, in my humble opinion, ‘The Descent’ , ‘Inside’ and ‘The Babadook’), this is an ingenious and audacious high-concept thriller with an absolute kicker of a final scene.
Project Square Eyes – Sunday the 8th of April 2018