SXSW: Screams and cheers as horror-thriller “A Quiet Place” opens SXSW film festival

On Friday night, actor John Krasinski kicked off the SXSW Film Festival with an enthusiastic, at-capacity screening of his post-apocalyptic horror-thriller “A Quiet Place.”

The Newton, Mass. native stars opposite Emily Blunt in the taut genre pic, his third directorial effort. It follows a family of four – including kids played by Noah Jupe and Millicent Simmonds – struggling to survive in a world where mysterious creatures hunt based on sound, rendering even the smallest of noises deadly.

Around a thousand festival-goers had queued up outside the Paramount Theater Friday evening, many of them hours in advance, in order to secure seats for the premiere, one of the biggest events at SXSW this year. And judging by the audience’s vocal responses to the film, mostly comprising terrified screams and nervous laughter, as well as their hearty round of applause as the credits rolled, “A Quiet Place” connected squarely with the SXSW crowd.

Krasinski, who took the stage after the film for a brief Q&A session alongside Blunt, Jupe, and Simmonds, certainly seemed pleased with the reception, joking around with the audience and feigning horror at how scary the film was. “Why did someone make this?” the one-time “Office” actor remarked incredulously.

For Krasinski, parenthood played a key role in driving his interest in the project. Blunt, to whom he’s been married since 2010, gave birth to the couple’s second daughter last year. “I was already in the world of pure terrified,” the actor recalled. “I thought, ‘Why not put it in a movie?’”

Of course, the project took an entirely different energy once Blunt agreed to sign on. “It was the best compliment of my career when she said she’d do it,” he admitted openly.

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On stage, the pair had nothing but praise for one another, and spoke favorably of working together for the first time. “It was awesome,” said Blunt, who acknowledged pre-shoot jitters when they weren’t sure their methods would mesh. “We were both sort of terrified the night before my first scene, hoping we would afford each other the same diplomacy you would any other director or actor.”

Drawing on classics like “Alien” and “Jaws,” Krasinski sought from the get-go to construct a horror movie rooted in character, that would mine psychological tension from the protagonists’ dilemmas and constitute more than a simple creature feature.

“You care about the family,” he said. “The creature out there in the dark is representative of the idea you never [want] to let your kid go out in the world.” 

Genre movies have a long history at SXSW, which in past years has hosted world premieres of titles like “The Cabin in the Woods,” “Insidious,” and “Baby Driver.”

That this year’s festival crowd engaged so eagerly with “A Quiet Place” bodes well for distributor Paramount’s plan to ride strong word-of-mouth coming out of SXSW and send the film into theaters early next month, on April 6.

Isaac Feldberg

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