Silent horror

Manjula Padmanabhan | | Updated on: Aug 24, 2018

Back in Delhi, the three of us go to the cinema, Bins, Rocky and I. “She likes awful movies,” says Bins, of me. “Slow, boring, arty...” “Yuck!” says Rocky. “Let’s see something exciting!” But I’m the one who bought the tickets. “It’s called A Quiet Place, ” I inform my companions as we set off in a cab. “It sounds really BOOOORINGGGG!” chorus the man and the raccoon, with one voice. I smile mysteriously. “It’s a horror movie,” I say, “but a quiet one.”

We settle into our seats. It’s an afternoon show and the hall is almost empty. We each have our own jumbo containers of popcorn. Rocky sits between Bins and me, just in case some audience member objects to sitting next to a furry animal. “Better finish your popcorn quickly,” I say. “Once the movie starts you won’t want to be making any noises.” The reason I know so much about the film is that I saw it on board my flight to India and have not entirely recovered. But of course Bins and Rocky laugh away my concerns.

It begins in silence, inside a shop. A pharmacy. It’s been trashed, with signs of dereliction everywhere. No one behind the counters. Then we see movement: there are people in here. A small family. Father (John Krasinski), mother (Emily Blunt) and three young children. No one’s talking and we see that they’re literally tiptoeing around, barefoot. Then the littlest child picks up a toy, a battery-operated rocket ship. The rest of the family freeze. Silently, with expressions of great concern, they tell him to put it down. He obeys. But as they leave the shop, after picking the medication they came to find, we see that the child brings the toy with him.

A short while later, as the family crosses a wooden bridge, the child, smiling and gleeful, turns the rocket on. It roars tinnily to life. BLAM! The child is gone! Snapped up by a hideous thing, all limbs and flashing teeth! And that’s when we understand that a race of blind monsters has overrun the world. Equipped with extreme hearing and ravenous hunger, they strike at the slightest whisper and at lightning speed. The only defence is to be very, very quiet.

The movie explores this terrifying concept with great attention to detail. The family are devastated by their loss. But they cannot cry, scream or mourn. Their only option is to survive against unbearable odds. We have no idea of how the monsters arrived, where they’re from or anything about them. The only hope lies in discovering what their weakness might be. From the corner of my eye, I see Rocky and Bins watching with slack-jawed terror.

As the movie winds towards its shocking finale, I smirk to myself. Yup! They’re sitting forward in their seats, popcorn uneaten! At the end, Rocky whispers, “I’m sorry, I peed myself!” “Entirely normal,” I whisper back. Then we tiptoe out of the hall, barely daring to breathe.

Manjula Padmanabhan, author and artist, writes of her life in the fictional town of Elsewhere, US, in this weekly column

Published on August 24, 2018
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