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A Quiet Place

At Cinemark

(PG-13)

Grade: B+

The Freeman Institute, which obviously has too much free time, has assembled a list of the “top oxymorons” in our language.

Sitting atop the list is “Microsoft Works,” followed by “exact estimate,” “working vacation,” “diet ice cream,” “twelve-ounce pound cake,” “pretty ugly,” “definitely maybe,” “tight slacks,” “political science” and “computer security”, not to mention “open secret” and “jumbo shrimp.”

I’d like to add one more oxymoron: a silent horror film.

“A Quiet Place” is just that, a horror film with virtually no dialogue. It reminded me of the previews for the movie “Alien:” “In space, no one can hear you scream.”

Creepy silence alone makes “A Quiet Space” an intriguing film, but the use of silence turns out to be much more than a gimmick – the script uses quietness as a thought-provoking metaphor.

For starters, the daughter in the family is deaf and the family uses sign language to speak with her. To add authenticity, the 14-year-old actress playing the role, Millicent Simmonds, has been deaf since she was 12 months old. Millicent knows what it’s like to live in silence. Millicent sets the tone.

So even before the carnivores arrive, the family is decidedly quiet.

The post-apocalyptic creatures are blind with hypersensitive ears. They can’t see their prey, so they listen intently. Thus, our terrified family tries to live in total silence.

The film begins with a child playing with a noisy toy, and losing his life. That moment sets both family members and moviegoers on edge for the duration.

It’s not easy to accomplish everyday chores without making noise. And, to say the obvious, kids are noisy.

Some abusive parents silence their children in painful ways, but in this script two caring parents are forced to silence their children while trying to reassure the kids they love them. The kids rebel at times from this gag rule, understandably forgetting the fatal consequence that sound might bring.

We discover how difficult it is for a loving parent to support children while muting them – the kids clearly can’t enjoy a normal childhood. Communication is vital to a loving home.

Even the deaf daughter is admonished if she makes any kind of playful noise, which means the girl who has no hearing is told she cannot have a voice, either.

The father tries to find creative ways to fool the creatures, like taking a child to a waterfall on a rushing river and standing under the falls. The roaring water mutes the voices, so dad can talk to a child.

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At the heart of the story is the message that silencing children’s voices, even for the best of reasons, has abusive consequences.

When a baby is born, the situation becomes even more terrifying. Babies cry – and every cry can bring the monsters to the door. There is seemingly only one way to silence a baby lamb.

Thus, silence itself turns out to be monstrous -- just as terrifying as the predator.

The plot has a few twists and a thoughtful ending, but the film’s soul revolves around the way that silencing voices sends people into psychological trauma.

By inference, we affirm that a good kid can -- and should -- be noisy. And that a loving parent should embrace -- not admonish -- a child who cries.

“A Quiet Place” is a thought-provoking study of how important it is to let kids be kids, and how destructive/abusive it can be to mute them.

The performances by Emily Blunt and John Krasinski are solid and sensitive, and the monsters (yawn) are blessedly hidden most of the time.

The fear that drives this quiet horror film is the threat of violence, not the violence itself. Who would have thought that sitting in quiet could be so unnerving?

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