Review: “A Quiet Place” starts a conversation – (In ASL)

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Marcus (Noah Jupe) and Reagan (Millicent Simmons)

“If they hear you, they hunt you.”

This simple tagline perfectly describes the premise of A Quiet Place. A post apocalyptic Horror/Thriller where a family must stay silent, using sign language, preparation, and wits, to avoid death at the claws of sightless monsters. We put A Quiet Place on our list of horror movies to watch for 2018. Apparently people took our advice, as director John Krasinski’s first Horror film enjoyed a number 1 box office opening of 50.2 million, beating out Ready Player One’s second week and more than doubling the opening numbers of Blockers.

  1. “A Quiet Place,” Paramount, $50,203,562, 3,508 locations, $14,311 average, $50,203,562, 1 week.
  2. “Ready Player One,” Warner Bros., $24,624,178, 4,234 locations, $5,816 average, $96,484,703, 2 weeks.
  3. “Blockers,” Universal, $20,556,350, 3,379 locations, $6,084 average, $20,556,350, 1 week.

The movie has finally been knocked off the top spot by Dwayne Johnson’s Rampage, (the new monster movie based on the classic arcade game), but A Quiet Place is still raking in 33 million in its third week. The movie has already solidified itself as a success, but as more than just a Horror movie, its also an important milestone for the Deaf Community. Quiet Place has sparked an important conversation, for those who haven’t seen it yet, we’ll try to keep spoilers to a minimum.

ASL (American Sign Language) as an eye opener

Since the trailer for A Quiet Place made its Superbowl debut it has brought ASL into the limelight in an important way. The movie’s entire plot revolves around the need for silence, the usage of ASL is not just a transparent attempt at inclusion, it showcases the benefits of ASL as a language. While the movie is clearly designed for hearing audiences, it puts us “hearies” in the shoes of a Deaf person. As one film critic put it:

“[A Quiet Place] really makes you think about the senseless noise that surrounds our existence. There really isn’t many quiet places that we have in modern society, and there really isn’t many times we will experience true silence. To have quietness as the norm in the movie is something that highlights just how desensitized we’ve become to the clutter of life clogging our senses.”

For many, A Quiet Place is an introduction to ASL. Krasinski fought for actual Deaf actress Millicent Simmons to play his deaf daughter, Reagan. The casting choice is an important one that had a lasting effect on Krasinski, who said of Millicent in an interview:

“She would just watch you and she would watch your gestures, she’d watch your eyes and then she’d watch truly your essence coming through. It was one of the most beautiful things.”

quiet place-3

Millicent Simmons signing at the premiere

Deaf Community’s response

The prospect of mainstream exposure to ASL is exciting to many in the deaf community. The deaf subreddit, R/deaf, has several threads raving about the movie, but there are a wide variety of opinions on A Quiet Place‘s portrayal of Deaf culture. Some critics are happy with the amount of agency granted to deaf character, Reagan:

“Despite her hearing loss, she is portrayed as smart, able to think on her feet. In comparison to her brother Marcus (Noah Jupe), she isn’t labeled a victim.”

Millicent Simmons wants Reagan’s character to serve as an example for other members of Hollywood to follow, she says that A Quiet Place is: “A story that might inspire directors and other screenwriters to include more deaf talent and be more creative in the way you use deaf talent.” Many in the community agree with Millicent, but not all. While Reagan’s sign language has helped the family survive, her deafness has also endangered her, which is why Lee, John Krasinski’s character and Reagan’s father, has been working tirelessly to make her a hearing aid.

Some Deaf writers are criticizing the movie for its use of the Cochlear implant, and it’s significance to the plot. Hearing aids are something of a hot button issue in the Deaf community, because many Deaf don’t see deafness as a disability. Rather than “losing” their hearing, they prefer to think of it as “gaining” their deafness. This is the core of an ideology that believes society needs deaf people, called Deaf Gain. Subscribers to this ideology such as accomplished Deaf writer Pamela J. Kincheloe lambasted the movie’s adoption of the “medical model” of deafness:

“I found “A Quiet Place” is actually yet another purveyor of the trope of disability being inextricably yoked to and dependent on technology, part of what disabilities scholars call “the medical model.” It instantiates the belief that technology providing a scientific and/or medical means of “curing” or normalizing people who are not “species-typical” is to be lauded.”

While the opinions on the movie are somewhat varied, the overall response has been positive. The incorporation of ASL into a mainstream Hollywood movie is an important first step, even if it stumbles a little along the way.


Reagan leads her younger brother Marcus to safety

Political Controversy (BEWARE possible spoilers)

The Deaf community isn’t the only controversy surrounding A Quiet Place. Audiences were angry about noisy concessions ruining the movie. Others have seen other aspects of the film’s plot as a transparent political statement. Characters are literally attacked by monsters for using their voice, and writers like Richard Brody of the New Yorker have seen this as a statement about the political conversation happening right now:

“Its significant that when characters—two white men—commit suicide-by-noisemaking, they do so by howling as if with rage, rather than by screeching or singing or shouting words of love to their families.”

This statement is not exactly accurate, as one of those men does say he loves his family, in ASL, in fact his “rage howl” is specifically to save them. But this wasn’t the only gripe, Brody also comments on the movie’s use of gun imagery in the tumultuous wake of the Parkland shooting:

“Krasinski ultimately delivers a pair of exemplary images, a lone bearded man (whom he himself plays) with a rifle, and a lone woman (played by his real-life wife, Emily Blunt) aiming a rifle into the camera.”


the image in question

What political writers like Brody fail to realize is that while guns appear in the movie they are not the focus, silence is. He doesn’t see ASL statements as real language, but a disabled one. Brody falls into the category that Kincheloe described, those that view deafness as a hindrance to hearing culture:

“A Quiet Place” could easily have been transformed into a voluble movie, in which the characters’ thoughts and experiences would be delivered on the soundtrack, as interior monologues, even if they’re compelled not to express them aloud to each other. But Krasinski chose to keep his characters blank and undefined…”

Claiming the movie isn’t “voluble” reveals Brody doesn’t see ASL as a language, a stigma the deaf community is actively fighting against, and A Quiet Place challenges that stigma.


John Krasinski stars and directs in A Quiet Place

Director’s Response

John Krasinski and Emily Blunt deny the political statements writers like Brody are projecting on the movie, they both spoke on the matter in an interview. Blunt replied:

“What happened is that people were [asking], ‘Do you think this movie is about being attacked for using your voice?’ And that’s not what we were thinking going into it,” the Golden Globe winner explained, “but its thrilling that a horror film is creating those kinds of conversations.”

Krasinski considered the associations a good thing: “The best compliment you can get on any movie is that it starts a conversation,” But he also denies the political overtones people are claiming the movie pushes: “This is a movie about family,” Krasinski says “Its a metaphor about what family is and the extremes you go to as a parent to protect your kids.”


Critical Reception

Despite the controversy and criticism, A Quiet Place has enjoyed favorable reviews. The great box office numbers align well with critical acclaim. The movie currently has a 95% fresh rotten tomatoes ranking, and has drawn some colorful comparisons:

“At times, we might be watching an “Alien” sequel in which the creature had mated with a very nasty and scolding librarian.”

In our opinion Quiet Place was refreshing not just for its clever, authentic use of ASL, but by having intelligent characters. Too often Horror movies force us to root for incompetent protagonists that overlook simple solutions to their predicament. While Quiet Place does have its plot holes, it also shows the family’s adaptation to their monstrous antagonists. The farm they live on is covered with safe trails to walk and has warning lights and preparations for an attack, it really showed the amount of thought that the characters put into their survival, and it doesn’t hold the audience’s hand in explaining that obvious course of action.

At it’s worst, A Quiet Place is a contrived yet original Horror premise with a competent execution. At it’s best it shatters the glass ceiling for Deaf actors and audience members everywhere. The movie follows the modern pattern of socially charged Horror that push the envelope of the genre:

“It uses the elements of horror to heighten a common human experience, making us think about everyday life in a new way. (Think of what Rosemary’s Baby did for pregnancy, what Carrie did for puberty, and what Get Out did for racism.)”

We highly recommend you check out Quiet Place for yourself, just make sure you don’t bring in any noisy snacks. (Popcorn is probably a bad idea.) If you haven’t seen A Quiet Place yet, you can get your tickets here. If you have, do you agree with our review? Which side of the debates are you on? Tell us what you think of the movie below, and as always, if you enjoyed this content please LIKE and SHARE.

Until Next time, GG


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