"It's Sound!" screams a briefly glimpsed newspaper headline flapping in the wind at the start of actor-director John Krasinski's marvelously tense, surprisingly melancholy horror thriller, A Quiet Place. That headline is no longer news to the family of five we meet, communicating via sign language, smiles and, when a toy nearly crashes to the floor, looks of pure terror.
A tragic prologue sets the ground rules for this desolate new America: Make any sort of sharp, unexpected sound and a mantis-like alien creature will zoom out of nowhere to swoop you away to an instant, grisly death.
A year later, that family has settled on a vast wheat farm, living in the basement of the main house and the barn's fruit cellar. The mother (Emily Blunt) -- the characters are never named -- is pregnant, due in three weeks, and while she and her husband (Krasinski) never discuss the question the impending arrival raises, moviegoers aren't likely to stop worrying over it: In a life that must be lived in silence, how do you manage a crying baby?
The answer is ingenious, like so many of the survival tactics engineered by the father, who has hooked up surveillance cameras and strung holiday lights all across the farm, which will turn out to have a color scheme of special significance.
A Quiet Place is Krasinski's third film as director but feels like the work of an old pro who has been newly inspired. It's completely gripping, and in a film fully reliant on facial communication, exquisitely acted by those amazing kids, and by Krasinski and Blunt, who've never been better (and who also happen to be married in real life).