Although it has received high praise from friends and family, we hesitated to see A Quiet Place in the theater but finally checked it out this week. I’m sorry I waited because the movie was definitely worth the trip, and I’ll probably buy it. First of all, it is the kind of creature-feature, popcorn-throwing movie that I really enjoy. Secondly, the plot was creative despite a few inconsistencies, making the film stand out from the normal horror dross. Finally, I simply enjoyed watching a flick with sign language since I’m trying to learn ASL. The acting was good and the suspense kept me flinching and jumping throughout the story.
I’m not going to review the movie because by now you know if you want to see it or not. Instead, I’d like to talk about the concept of the unkillable monster.
Shotgun Anyone? Flamethrower?
I first came across the idea of an unkillable monster in the 2001 Jeepers Creepers movie. At least two more sequel films were made with this critter, but I didn’t bother to see any of them. I was so irritated at the bad story in the first movie. In essence, this flesh-eating, skin-wearing monster/demon comes out every x number of years (seven, I think) and eats people for 23 days. The poor humans can do nothing about it except perhaps smear themselves with ketchup and mustard.
Hey movie-making folks? This is boring! Everything dies from something. That’s the nature of life that writers can ignore at their own peril. It is fine that the beast has some kind of advantage such as size (King Kong, Godzilla), speed (Cloverfield and A Quiet Place), flight (Jeepers Creepers) or something else, but every creature must have weaknesses. Otherwise the plot just devolves into a cat-and-mouse retread or constant chase scenes, both becoming dull quickly.
We want our hero/heroine to have a chance of survival. It gives us something to root for and makes the plot more interesting as the hero figures out the villain’s weakness. That “outsmart them” factor is what we desire in a good creature-feature. I mean, come on! Even the Alien, Terminator, and Predator critters were stoppable, and they all had higher intelligence than some of the villains mentioned above.
A Quiet Place’s History
This movie is one of the Cloverfield franchise. The monster is similar in design to Cloverfield (2008), 10 Cloverfield Lane (2016), and The Cloverfield Paradox (on Netflix). The first movie was enjoyable because of the Blair Witch, in-the-moment filming that they used. The second film asked the question “what if the survivalist psycho that imprisoned you is right about never stepping outside?” John Goodman did a great job as one of the bad guys in this flick. Supposedly The Cloverfield Paradox ties all the movies together but I haven’t seen it yet.
Anyway the critters are leathery looking, lots of teeth, incredible speed, and a desire for flesh. They are all different yet similar and none have shown intelligence above a tiger or perhaps a pack of wolves. No one seems to know how they got to Earth because they are not smart enough to pilot a spaceship. Therefore, people should be able to outthink them.
In fact, while I watched A Quiet Place, I spent a lot of time pondering how to kill the sound-obsessed munchoids. Fire comes to mind. Pits filled with sharpened stakes and a noisemaker tossed in is another work-intensive plan. For armies, there is always the “nuke ’em from orbit. It’s the only way to be sure” idea. Nowhere in the movies have we seen that bullets don’t work except to see one old newspaper claiming “they’re indestructible!” I don’t buy that because the creatures don’t seem to have armor. They are just really difficult to hit.
I don’t buy that we can’t have a death plan before the civilized world ends. As my husband pointed out, set up a large building with explosives and put noisemakers inside. Watch them from across the street as they swarm in. Blow the building down and then shoot the ones that manage to crawl out.
Of course, by the end of the movie (SPOILER) the survivors do stumble across the monster’s weakness, and we see that a bullet into the open mouth will work pretty well.
So the idea to take away from this rant is “never make your monster indestructible.” Like great characters, evil critters should be three-dimensional and complex. The fight between it and the hero should have some point other than the hero just getting beaten up before he/she is killed. Otherwise your manuscript will weaken to the point where it dies as well. And that’s no fun for anyone.