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Sounds and Silence: Designing the Dread for “A Quiet Place”

"We were all very excited about the idea that in this film, the audience is really going to pay attention to every sound in ways they maybe haven't before."

Directed by John Krasinski, A Quiet Place “develops its horrifying premise around a gimmick perfect for cinematic storytelling,” writes Eric Kohn. “In a post-apocalyptic countryside, monsters are drawn to their prey by sound, so human survivors can barely exchange more than whispers.

“Utilizing the pure physicality of a cast you can count on one hand, the movie maintains a minimalist dread throughout, with every footstep or sudden move carrying the potential for instant death.

Left to right: John Krasinski and Noah Jupe plays in “A Quiet Place,” from Paramount Pictures

“In a chaotic information age,” Kohn concludes, “it’s liberating to become immersed in a movie where noise can kill you.” To read the full article, click here.

A Quiet Place draws on a history of films that use sound editing and music to architect atmosphere and to heighten confusion and sustain suspense, but the idea was also to take the use of sound somewhere new, making sound a character.

Read more: How A Quiet Place Kept Quiet: Anatomy of a Scene 

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“I was anxious about having so little dialogue,” Krasinski tells David Marchese. “You wonder how you’re going to keep people interested.”

“Krasinski quickly realized that ‘what I was anxious about became the movie’s superpower,'” Marchese continues. “That epiphany—that what comes before the ‘boo’ is as important as the ‘boo’ itself—allowed Krasinski to get a handle on the material.” To read the full article, click here.

Read more on Pro Sound News: Sounding Out A Quiet Place

“Re-thinking sound was huge for us the whole way,” Krasinski says. “We all had to learn to be quiet in ways we’ve never been before on a set. And from that quiet, the importance of the sound design started to become more and more apparent. When you’re so quiet, and then you suddenly hear water or trees blowing in the wind, it’s astonishing.

Left to right: Emily Blunt and Millicent Simmonds in “A Quiet Place,” from Paramount Pictures

“You realize that in this day and age with the phones and everything, we don’t often get a chance to just listen to the world. So, we were all very excited about the idea that in this film, the audience is really going to pay attention to every sound in ways they maybe haven’t before.”

“From a technical standpoint, it goes unsaid that this would be a sound designer’s dream,” writes Norman Gidney. “A film, where noise is a key character and the singular threat. Erik Aadahl uses this opportunity to score the film in an aural feast of ASMR delights with whispers, crunching sand, leaves blowing in the wind. That’s not to mention the creaking timber beams in the house, the deep thump of wooden chairs and cabinets, and the soft sounds of cloth stretching and folding.” To read the full article, click here.

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John Krasinski (left) and Noah Jupe in A Quiet Place, from Paramount Pictures. Photo by Jonny Cournoyer

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“A lot of the ambient noise—like footsteps on sand and the hum of nature—was recorded practically while filming,” reports Laura Prudom, “before being amplified in postproduction, along with the horrifying sounds of the near-indestructible creatures that are now hunting humanity, which are blind but attracted by noise. This strategy helps turn the film’s few sounds into a weapon that can be used to shock the audience, sometimes when you least expect it.”

“I knew sound would be a major character in the movie, and we needed to lean into it fully. But your ideas of what is possible are blown up exponentially when you get into the post process,” Krasinski tells Prudhom. “When you’re sitting there at that mixing board with these incredible designers, and you’re just playing with it, then it becomes, how far can you go? We had so much fun… Because the truth is, we very rarely in this world, especially with how busy everyone is and the social media, get to just stop and listen anymore. So, we thought, wouldn’t it be cool to force an audience to actually stop and listen and hear what the wood sounds like, and hear what the corn sounds like?” To read the full interview, click here.

Left to right: Noah Jupe, Millicent Simmonds and John Krasinski in “A Quiet Place,” from Paramount Pictures.

“The film’s cinematography and carefully crafted sound design and score (composer Marco Beltrami, providing precise work) has you captured,” says Guillermo Troncoso, “watching every purposeful angle nervously and barely wanting to shuffle in your chair less you disturb the soundscape.” To read the full article, click here.

Read more: The Cinematography of A Quiet Place