In his new horror movie, director John Krasinski (very intelligently) enlists his wife Emily Blunt to co-parent their fictional brood of fairly quiet kids, played by Millicent Simmonds and Noah Jupe. The entirety of the film revolves around the survival of the Abbott family on their closely monitored corn farm, seemingly untouched by the post-apocalyptic monsters which roam and destroy anything that emits sound.
Their silent communication is modified entirely in their cautious survival, using Sign Language for the majority of the film’s dialogue. Their eldest child Regan is Deaf, putting her at a manifest disadvantage – especially in her parents’ eyes. Their interactions are methodical – we see them through a day or two of (mostly) uninterrupted labour, where we discover where their resentments lie, and how very fragile their world is.
Although this film’s premise is ostensibly high concept, it’s execution is extremely elegant. As the audience, we are positioned with a great deal of information throughout. We are given exposition early on in Lee’s basement as we read papers and whiteboards of information about the monsters. We are even shown the position of a nasty nail before a character accidentally steps on it in one excruciating scene. This knowledge builds an insurmountable degree of tension, combined with the agonising necessity for quiet from all characters. The film’s lighting is excellent, utilising a great deal of natural light and amplifying the combination of beauty and horror in this world. The world seems incredibly lush, past the grey-tonal state of many post-apocalyptic films into regrowth or evolution. The music is in complete tandem with the tonal requirements of the film, mostly piano and muffled bass. All of the technical elements of this film contribute to an unadulterated sense of trepidation, amplifying the incredible tension.
A portion of the film is seen through Regan’s perspective, with the film’s ambient sound cutting out to match her point-of-view. Much of the danger which surrounds Regan and her family is undetectable to her senses, and Regan works overtime to keep up and stay out of peril. Although Regan is older, she isn’t allowed into her father’s basement, let alone any sort of responsibility in protecting her family.
Regan is played exceptionally by Simmonds, who is also Deaf. The performances, especially by Blunt are wonderfully interpersonal, each working impressively as a believable family unit going through absolute hell.
It was the last scene which really brought it home on a broader level. Regan, finally able to enter the basement in protection of her family, is able to use her father’s research and material to save her family. It seems that after her father’s perhaps years of agonising, all he needed was a differing perspective, specifically a girl whose Deafness plays to significantly into her identity. A character like Regan is fresh to mainstream Hollywood, demonstrating a new, specific, often othered perspective. Additionally, the last shot of the film positions the two most (traditionally) vulnerable characters – Regan and mother Evelyn – in an unmitigated hero shot.