A Quiet Place is less of a horror film than it is a super stressful psychological thriller that understands the unnerving power of silence.
I feel about horror movies the same way I feel about roller coasters: they’re not my #1 go-to source for a good time, but I do enjoy the really good ones — especially if I have someone next to me who doesn’t mind me clutching their arm in a death grip for the duration — despite feeling like I’m going to die the entire time.
And trust me, A Quiet Place is definitely one of the good ones.
While it’s definitely a monster film, the real scares aren’t from the skeletal, demogorgon-ish creatures you catch a glimpse of within the first five minutes of the film.
Instead, the true power of the film is in its understanding of the impact of sound — or rather, the lack thereof. A Quiet Place is a movie which turns the most innocuous objects — a toy rocket, a wood floor, a loose nail — into plot points and horror movie moments which are utterly terrifying.
(Seriously, I felt more fear and anxiety from long, lingering shots of a loose nail sticking up from a wooden step than I felt in the last five Saw films and all the Insidious films combined.)
A Quiet Place immerses you completely into this nightmarish reality — an existence dripping with dread and heavy with ever-increasing tension — and then manages to slowly build to a level that goes beyond nerve-wracking and is more accurately described as completely nerve-shredding.
It’s a phenomenal example of the power of mood and atmosphere in a film, a movie that understands the power of a great score and long, unbroken minutes of silence — and how to draw out those minutes to the point where it feels like you’ll scream even if — or perhaps because — the characters themselves cannot.
It’s this understanding of the power of silence and the tension associated with it that makes the scares and jumps in A Quiet Place feel earned. And while the film is certainly one of the best examples of how to build tension and atmosphere with the use of silence, it’s not the only film to do so.
Here are three movies like A Quiet Place that, while not necessarily as frightening, still make use of silence and stillness to great effect.
Summary: During a time of starvation, the Survivalist lives off a small plot of land hidden deep in forest protecting his crop from intruders with his shotgun and improvised traps. But the long years alone have taken their toll on him and he is beginning to lose his grip on reality. Everything changes when a starving woman called Kathryn and her teenage daughter, Milja, discover the farm.
The best way I can describe The Survivalist is unflinching.
Unflinching in how it depicts life after the end of the world — an isolated, lonely existence steeped in an absence of empathy — and unflinching in how it chooses to film the most horrifying, disconcerting moments with a neutral kind of banality.
It’s also a really intense movie, with the intensity coming mostly through actions — a gesture in the half-light, a slight movement in the periphery of the screen — and in the use of natural woodland sounds and silence. Dialogue is used sparingly — I doubt any individual actor had more than a page of script to memorize — and tends to punctuate scenes with a jarring kind of energy.
And while it’s not necessarily a horror movie, The Survivalist is steeped in a kind of sullen, creeping dread and a slow build of tension the plays on your nerves the entire time.
Summary: In a small, remote village in upstate Quebec, things have changed. Locals are not the same anymore — their bodies are breaking down and they have turned against their loved ones. A handful of survivors goes hiding into the woods, looking for others like them.
I love all types of zombie films — the terrifying, the grotesque, the laughably implausible. If it has undead people eating other people who are trying to run away from them, I’m there. However, as much as I love zombie films, I have to admit that the ones which are actually good are few and far between.
Ravenous is one of those rare good ones.
The setting of rural Quebec — an area that, at least in the movie, is replete with ethereal forests and dense meadows — simultaneously feels too open and suffocatingly claustrophobic. The zombies of the film show some kind of intelligence, sometimes seeming to use herding techniques to trick then surround their prey, and are attracted by any kind of sound.
This means the whole movie has an ominous sort of hush over it, with every single noise and unintentional sound becoming a reason for fear and anxiety. Because of this, slow movements, hushed tones and subtle glances are the mode of communication, all layering onto the general heavy feeling of dread.
That the zombies are of the fast kind and emit a creepy, ear-piercing screech as they start running after their prey only adds to the general atmosphere of terror and tension and makes this one of the better zombies films in recent memory.
Summary: Author Maddie Young lives a life of utter isolation after losing her hearing as a teenager. She’s retreated form society, living in seclusion and existing in a completely silent world. But one night, the fragile world is shattered when the masked face of a psychotic killer appears in her window. Without another living soul for miles, and with no way to call for help, it appears that Maddie is at the killer’s mercy.
Hush is a more traditional type of horror film than either of these previous films, a home invasion story centered around a lone woman living in the woods.
What sets it apart from other horror movie attempts is its protagonist, Maddie, a deaf woman — a facet of her character that provides more than a few incredibly nail-biting, nerve-wracking moments in the film. Maddie’s deafness likewise lets the film do interesting things with sound — sometimes cutting off completely to put us in Maddie’s shoes, and then having it return in jarring, incredibly frightening ways that somehow never feels as cheap as it often does in other horror movies.
Hush builds the tension slowly, giving us a psychopathic killer who seems intent on engaging in a violent and bloody game of cat and mouse designed to intimidate, unnerve and attack Maddie both psychologically and physically.
It’s a suspenseful, well-paced horror film that likewise flips the power dynamics a few times in the movie and leaves us clinging to the edge of the seat (or our husband’s poor hand) the entire time.