Shh…Don’t Say a Word
Sci-fi giant spider-like creatures can’t see you—so no need to hide—except, if they hear you—they’ll kill you instantly. That’s the premise of this tightly edited, spine-tingling sci-fi horror film. Be prepared for 95 minutes of suspense building, nerve-wracking drama as a family attempts to survive in a dystopian world where making a sound means certain death.
John Krasinski stars as dad Lee Abbott, he’s also co-writer and director with Emily Blunt his real-life wife, playing his wife, Evelyn. Their two pre-teen children Marcus (Noah Jupe) and (Regan) Millicent Simmonds live in the year 2020; yet, in an upstate New York rural dystopian setting. All know, if you speak, you die.
Upon our first meeting of the Abbott family, we see two pre-teens and a younger brother Beau (Cade Woodward) around four years of age. They are tiptoeing while barefoot in a ramshackle pharmacy while mom Evelyn looks for medicine for Marcus. Beau finds a battery-powered toy spaceship and wants to keep it. A concerned dad, signs the word, “No,” then signs, “It will be too loud.” As he’s signing, words appear on the screen as captions. And wouldn’t you know it, before we can comprehend the gravity of the situation; big sis, gives Beau the toy while dad and mom aren’t looking? Very quickly, the film grabs hold of you and lets you know it’s playing for keeps as Beau meets a tragic end, all due to the eerie noise of an innocent toy.
Captivating in storyline and tone, you’ll have no idea where the film is headed as we watch survival skills kick into high gear by all family members. The acting is tremendous, offering wide emotional swings. Blunt, in particular, is fantastic as she mourns her son, yet we soon learn she’s already protecting her unborn child as she gingerly moves from place to place while gently clutching her baby bump. And yes, the thought of a baby being born into this disturbing world of silence is utterly terrifying. Her scenes with her pre-teens are incredible as she displays motherly love by the smallest of nuances, the touch of her hand, the smile on her face, the kiss on a forehead, a simple hug—all are powerful gestures which are surprisingly enhanced by the lack of dialogue.
Blunt’s love for her husband is also crystal clear as we watch them share ear-buds as they romantically dance to a “Harvest Moon,” by Neil Young. For sure, my favorite scene in the movie, as it gave us a respite from the constant impending terror, my only regret is that the scene wasn’t a little longer. The scene also allowed us to view Lee’s feelings for his wife, showing tenderness amid his typical stressed-out strong husband/dad persona. Here, the fact these two are married in real life allows for an authentic layer that could only be pulled off by those genuinely in love. The dance scene gave me chills, in a pleasing way. Imagine that in a horror movie? Yep, I’m a romantic at heart and this warm, sweet as honey scene rocked my world.
Krasinski took care in that he didn’t overplay the sound factor. No wind chimes or cracked glass, nope—nothing that cheesy. He gives us a script that appears to have been massaged and thought out to the minutest of details. And in order not to give away any of those details, as it would spoil the suspense, those will be withheld here. Just know that you’ll be impressed by the use of sound particularly when it is heightened or the lack of it when it’s supposed to be normal everyday living. But that’s exactly what makes this film so entertaining; it’s not normal living—it’s dystopian survival. In a scene in the woods near a waterfall, Lee and his son are talking. Marcus is nervous and very frightened. Lee says, “The river is loud, small sounds are safe, big sounds are not.” Marcus confides that Regan blames herself for Beau’s death, dad helps alter that view.
It should also be noted that daughter Regan, (Millicent Simmonds) is actually deaf in real life and is fantastic in her role. Dad spends many hours trying to repair her broken Cochlear implant by boosting the signal with scavenged radio parts from the abandoned town. Despite his constant efforts, the device does not allow her to hear. However, they play a much more significant role later in the film.
In full disclosure, I’m not a big-time horror fan. Although I do appreciate suspense, when done well and if that’s what you’re looking for—along with a few good—jump out of your seat moments, then this film fits the bill. I would, however, strongly advise against seeing the film if you are expecting a baby, as the moments surrounding the birth and afterward are hair-raising.
The Bottom line: Tight editing builds the suspense in this excellent horror film.
Cast: John Krasinski (Lee Abbott), Emily Blunt (Evelyn Abbott), Millicent Simmonds (Regan), Noah Jupe (Marcus), Cade Woodward (Beau)
Director: John Krasinski,
Writer (story by): Bryan Woods, Scott Beck,
Writer: Bryan Woods, Scott Beck, John Krasinski,
Cinematographer: Charlotte Bruus
Running Time: 1 hour 35 minutes
Studio: Paramount Pictures
Sarah Knight Adamson© April 6, 2018