A Quiet Place – A Deaf Perspective

A Quiet Place Part II, the post-apocalyptic movie, is currently on hold because of Corona. Since theaters are closed, professional reviewers are mainly doing retrospective pieces on movies from ages past. YouTube’s Chris Stuckmann just did 98’s Mulan a couple days ago. Not every review has to be perfectly punctual, right?

Since A Quiet Place Part II is on the queue of movies to come roaring back once the pandemic abates, I thought I should review the prequel and offer my take as a Deaf person myself.

A Quiet Place is set during the aftermath of an extraterrestrial invasion of creatures that hunt with their hyper-acute sense of hearing. Basically, these are a swarm of Daredevils. Big, hulking Daredevils that crush small animals with their bare hands. Because of their impenetrable skin, Earth’s forces weren’t able to hold them off.

The film focuses on a family of 4 that hides from the creatures by staying silent, hence the title. The daughter is Deaf who communicates via sign language and uses a cochlear implant. The father, mother, and son all use this necessity to great benefit. Aside from their bilingual skill, they’re also incredibly resourceful: they never wear shoes, they walk along smooth paths of their own making, and avoid using hard objects (survival tactics to preclude noise that would draw the creatures in).

A Quiet Place uses a very unique, original premise and makes very good use of it. The deafening silence for much of the film makes the noisy scenes all the more terrifying and nerve-racking. Most Hollywood jump-scares simply don’t work because the viewer is already accustomed to hearing loud, jarring things (like the teenage girls in Halloween and Friday the 13th).

The characterization of the family is also a nice bold touch: ostensibly, they’re conservative. The father leads them, teaches his kids survival skills, and is good with his hands. He’s constantly trying to improve his daughter’s cochlear implant, to eventual great effect (more on that in a bit). The mother is nuturing, delicate, and willing to suffer through the pain of childbirth in silence. It’s really no suprise that their last names are “Abbot.”

A theory has gone around saying the movie’s secret message is how conservatives need to stay silent in a world that is openly hostile towards them. I’m not sure what director/writer/star John Krasinski’s intent was. I do believe that our inner philosophies reflect in the stories that we write. But if Krasinski believes he needs to keep his mouth shut like his character does, in order to stay safe, then I’ll respectfully keep mine shut.

The movie is very bold in its approach as to how the father, the lead protector, is killed off. Such a dire circumstance can radically change the order of any family, which is why I think Part II will be intriguing. There’s only so much a lone mother can do for her children. How will the fatherless boy survive in a world that is dangerous? How is the deaf girl going to survive in a world that can’t/won’t communicate with her?

While the use of sign language and silence is what drives the film’s appeal, I feel it got to the point where it was pandering. The father tweaking the CI to help his daughter hear again is subtle cultural commentary. Deaf folks see CIs as a “fix” for something they don’t deem a disability. Apparently with some tweaks the implant could also send out high-pitched hums. This incapitates the creatures to the point they open up their heads, leaving them vulnerable to attack (like they’re a boss in a Zelda game or something).

First of all, as a CI-user myself, I can affirm that cochlear implants do not work that way. They take normal sounds and transmit them directly to the brain. They do not shoot out banshee-shrieks like they’re ultrasonic weapons. I know, I know; it’s a movie. I get it. I should suspend my belief, you’re right. But the problem isn’t that it’s illogical. The problem is that it belies an eagerness to pander.

I feel a better way to combat the creatures would’ve been for the father to construct actual ultrasonic weapons. He already had an understanding of audiology, did he not? The weapons could’ve gotten turned off and stayed hidden when the creatures approached them. This confuses the creatures and they end up attacking each other.

See, if the film really is political this solution would’ve made more sense (make some noise and cause leftists to go after each other). Maybe this was on the drawing board during the writing stages. Maybe Krasinski didn’t go with it because he wanted to put a lid on his politics.

Judging by how the world/media can act like the blind savages of A Quiet Place, I can’t say I blame him.

Rating: B+

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