I missed the press screening for this movie so I headed to the Angelika Film Center Thursday night. I bought tickets in the afternoon for the night time show, which was good, since it sold out. And that sold out audience was quieter than any movie I’ve ever been in. It’s as if they thought these alien type creatures would get them if they made a sound.
Comedic actor John Krasinski (The Office) makes this his third time behind the camera, and his first time tackling the horror genre. He cast his real-life wife (Emily Blunt) to play his wife in the film, and the kids he cast are terrific. The most intense and interesting of the bunch is Regan (Millicent Simmonds). When I said to my wife early in the movie, “I bet she’s really a deaf actress,” she snapped back, “Of course she is! Didn’t you know that?”
It wouldn’t be the only debate we’d have about this movie.
The son Marcus (Noah Jupe), perfectly conveys how a 10-year-old boy would be utterly petrified by his surroundings. Just playing a quiet game of Monopoly could turn ugly if you roll the dice too loudly. And when dad tries to show him how to go to a stream to fish, we’re wondering the same thing the kid is — why dad? Can’t I just stay home and chill?
One critic complained that it’s never explained where these monsters came from. Well, they sort of do. On the newspaper clippings on the wall, you see that a meteor hit and you get little nuggets of info about them. Although I was wondering how if these creatures (which look like all scary aliens — like the ones from the movie Alien), were such great killing machines, who had time to write newspaper articles instead of just hunkering down and trying to stay alive? My wife was just wondering how they had so much access to water and electricity if almost everyone on Earth is dead.
I thought of another critic, who decades ago, complained about how in the movie Mr. Holland’s Opus (Richard Dreyfuss), it was rather odd that the music teacher happened to have a child that was deaf. It didn’t bother me there, but the contrivance bothered me here. A family that needs to be quiet to survive, just happens to know sign language because they had a deaf daughter. Although, I give the movie credit for using her deafness to brilliant effect. There are moments we get things from her perspective, and it’s chilling.
The sounds we do hear are intriguing. The rustling of the corn fields is eerie. I wished they would’ve had that for Children of the Corn when I was teenager.
The cinematography was nice, and the pacing of the 90 minute film often had me on the edge of my seat. You surprisingly care more for these characters than you’d think, given the fact that there’s no backstory on any of them.
The problem I have is how derivative it all felt. Sometimes watching the creatures move through the corn fields reminded me of Tremors (Kevin Bacon) over 20 years ago. The clicking and screeching sounds of the alien reminded me of…well, lots of movies. The whole vibe of the movie reminded me of M. Night’s Signs (side note: I always laugh at how when Roger Ebert reviewed Signs, he was ticked off that the thing that killed the aliens was water, and they decided to come to a planet that has a surface that is 70% water).
The other problem I had were all the goofy flaws in logic. Here’s an example of a scene that bothered me the least. The dad is taking his son fishing, and he’s trying to show him that the river is loud and the creatures won’t hear you talk near it. So when they go to the waterfall, the father screams loudly to prove it. Uh, why?
Now, to the most frustrating one. The mother gets pregnant. It makes you wonder why they wouldn’t be safer. Last I checked, babies are loud. Remember that last episode of MASH where Alan Alda had to smother a baby because it was so loud? And, last I checked, making babies can be rather loud. Even if you’re trying to be quiet. Think about that hysterical scene in The Interview where Seth Rogen has poison on his hand, and can’t use it while making love to a North Korean woman. If it was that difficult just keeping one hand out of the picture, imagine the degree of difficulty not making sounds. Now, I won’t speak for every man out there, but…if I knew an alien creature could hear just the slightest sound, and I could be in the middle of a romantic night and just one of us makes the wrong sound…it would keep me from being in the mood. I mean, I saw….Species. The thought of making love to Natasha Henstridge and having her kill me in the middle of it because she’s really an alien; well…let’s just say this. If aliens invaded, and have killed most of society, and they’re out there listening for any little sound…we can call it a day on our sex lives.
And really, is this the world you’d want to bring a child into? One in which they can’t make any noise, can’t talk, and odds are, will end up being alien fodder. So perhaps when the movie started, and they were taking meds off the shelf of a pharmacy…maybe grab a few condoms.
Another time, there’s a huge nail poking out of the stairway. Of course somebody steps on it. Uh, how did that get there? Did it just pop up one day?
There’s a romantic dance scene with Neil Young being played, while the couple has ear buds. Again, is it worth the risk of one of those things falling out and the creature hearing it?
The family has done a good job of making a room soundproof, complete with a soundproof crib, for when the baby arrives. It makes you wonder why they didn’t do that to the entire house.
Now, in the middle of all those complaints, it doesn’t mean I wasn’t worried sick when she started to have that baby. If you think the idea of a “water birth” in a tub is scary, imagine doing it with nobody around, and a creature walking up the stairs (that’s not a spoiler, they show it in the commercials).
The movie was written by Krasinski, Bryan Woods, and Scott Beck. You’d think the two of them could get rid of the flawed logic displayed by this family.
The movie had a handful of jump scares that were fun, and at least more happens here than the overly praised It Comes at Night.
My wife liked the movie a lot more than I did. Perhaps it was Krasinski’s tenderness, combined with that mountain man beard.
I can only give it 2 ½ stars out of 5.