Mary Kay McBrayer
They're Gonna Find Them Because I Gasped (A Conversation about A Quiet Place)
In this post, Mary Kay from Everything Trying to Kill You and Emily from Book Squad Goals talk about John Kraskinski's new film, A Quiet Place. It takes place in a post-apocalyptic earth which aliens with super-hearing abilities have taken over. They hunt humans. If you haven't seen it yet, you'll want to do that before you read this. We like to use spoilers as ice-breakers.
Emily: Oh there you are, haha. I was just telling you to hurry up.
Mary Kay: I know. Sorry, I wanted to clean my dishes before the food set on them.
Emily: I have things to say about this movie and the patriarchy. That's my thesis.
Mary Kay: Okay. What's your supporting evidence?
Emily: John Krasinski's character was oppressive and kept both women in the family from reaching their full potential. It isn't until after he dies that they realize their strength and are able to defeat the monsters. Oh, spoilers, everyone.
Mary Kay: Ha! But he had to die in order to make them listen to him--or Regan at least. The whole time, I was like, REGAN! You petulant child! Didn't you see what happened to Beau when y’all don't listen to your daddy? HOWEVER, that bitch was ASTUTE.
Emily: Ugh okay but real talk. That kid needed to die. HE WAS A LIABILITY.
Mary Kay: OMG--that's true, but how about the INFANT they're gonna try to raise silent, who will NEVER learn to speak, probably?
Emily: That's just like... selfish. To bring a child into that kind of world. When y'all were at the drug store, y'all needed to pick up condoms.
Mary Kay: Also, those opening scenes called me out REAL quick. REAL fuckin' quick. I expected the kid to make it at least through, like, the opening credits. I mean, I see where you're coming from, but also, like, what's the point in living in a world where you can't LIVE? What's the point of just surviving? I get why they wanted to. (have a baby, I mean) Also, girl, you know condoms expire, right?
Emily: Yeah, but how many years has it been? Not that many, I feel. Did we get a sense of that?
Mary Kay: Yes. 90 days.
Emily: Girl, condoms don't expire in NINETY DAYS.
Mary Kay: No, you right. I CAN TESTIFY.
Emily: Like, clearly, that was a replacement baby. Which is selfish.
Mary Kay: All babies are selfish. But that doesn't mean we shouldn't have them... especially in a procreate-to-save-humanity situation. And why is this one so much worse? They made a plan. The plan worked.
Emily: Yes. All babies are selfish. How about the barefoot and pregnant thing. What do you make of that?
Mary Kay: The barefoot and pregnant thing... IDK, I was really okay with it. In that scenario, that's what she needed to do. Also, did you get the idea that she was in the medical field, prior-to? I mean, did you get the sense that she was a doctor or a nurse or something before the apocalypse?
Emily: Oh, yeah, she had to be because she was like, giving the kids medication and making arrangements for the baby… I feel like she was in the medical field, and the husband did something with technology, which is probably why they were able to survive. That and the having a deaf child thing .
Mary Kay: Right. She was checking antibiotics and shit at the drug store. And having a deaf family member definitely helped them out because they knew how to communicate without sound. And I feel like their proficiency in ASL is what REALLY made them okay. That, and they had important things to communicate.
Emily: Yes, I think communication is probably the number one thing you need for survival Then technology and medication.
Mary Kay In defense of the man--what's his name? Do we get his name?--he did make the diversion so that his wife didn't get eaten while she was screaming in labor. He did save his daughter by sacrificing himself. And yes, he did tell her she couldn't come with him, but only for her own safety. She couldn't tell if she was making noises, and that's why he worked so hard ALL THE TIME to make her a replacement cochlear implant. Is that what you call that? I just assumed it was the same, but if it's external is it still an implant? #awareness
Emily: Yeah... I don't know I'm not trying to say that he's not a good guy. It's not his fault the patriarchy is oppressive.
Mary Kay: Well, it's not a patriarchy by the end!
Emily: Also, I was SO PISSED at that girl for not figuring out her hearing aid thing like... just 10 minutes earlier. Right? ‘Cause Jim dies. I'm just calling him Jim. Because he will forever be Jim. We all know this.
Mary Kay: Yeah, but as an actor he's done some other pretty dope stuff. Like, this. Like, Away We Go....
Emily: I know, and yet...
Mary Kay: (looks at camera)
Emily: Anyhow. What do YOU think this movie is about?
Mary Kay: The most memorable parts to me, honestly, were the opening scenes. I thought they were understated and fucking terrifying, especially because I was in this huge-ass theater that was PACKED, and no one was making any noise at all. Also, this might be a dumb thing to point out, but the diegetic sound changes depending on whose perspective those ASL dialogue sections were in. I mean, when Regan is the one listening, there's no sound. When Beau listens, there’s VERY LITTLE sound. I thought that was on-point foreshadowing for later. But as for what it's about? I think it shows that in survival situations, things we normally consider weaknesses become strengths. If Regan was not deaf, that family would have probably died with everyone else. If they didn't have a way to communicate, they would have driven themselves crazy, like the screaming man in the forest did. Or seemed to do.
Emily: Did you know that actress is deaf IRL?
Mary Kay: Yes.
Emily: I think that's so great.
Mary Kay: I was going to be pretty pissed if she wasn't, tbh.
Emily: She was so good in this.
Mary Kay: Yeah, she was.
Emily: I think the cinematic choices, like the diegetic sound, were great, but what stood out to me the most were the performances. So much had to be conveyed through facial expressions. The story itself, to me, was at its core a pretty basic monster movie. But what elevated it were the performances.
Mary Kay: Yes! The children’s performances were great, too. And not just Hermione lifting her eyebrows. Those kids had to be REAL SCARED because there were no lines to fall back on. Oh man, can we talk about Emily Blunt stepping on that nail?? I could not watch.
Emily: Oh lord, I had a very visceral reaction to that entire segment. From that moment to the birth in the bathtub. It was very intense. I really thought she might die. Because we don't know from the trailers if she makes it past that point.
Mary Kay: And they had already shown us there were fine with killing characters… So I read this article about how Hitchcock would create suspense, and they compared it to when her burlap sack yanks that nail up. He said, show the audience there's a bomb. And then don't come back to it. Have something else serious happen (like, for example, her going into labor), and then punish your audience for forgetting about the bomb. So, it's pretty standard creature-feature stuff, but still, really well executed, I thought.
Emily: Yes, except I definitely DID NOT forget about that nail. But I see what they're saying.
Mary Kay: Well, I forgot about it until there was ANY staircase.
Emily: There's a lot going on with guilt in this movie as well.
Mary Kay: Yeah. Oh, also, while we're talking about bomb foreshadowing, when that quiet space starts to flood, I was like FUCK FUCK FUCK, but it ended up being a waterfall for her to hide behind, and I thought that was really well-paced and relieving, too.
Emily: Oh yes, that was a moment where I was like, OH I SEE WHAT THEY DID SETTING UP THE WATERFALL EARLIER.
Mary Kay: As for guilt, yeah, they talk about Beau all the time. The little boy is the only one who doesn't feel guilty. He's the peacemaker, when the individuals don't realize what the conflicts are. I thought that was a pretty sweet inversion of gender archetypes, too. And daddy Jim kind of embodies that later, when he falls on the grenade. Oh, I did read this other article, too, that asked, "Why did they yell when they died? Why didn't they... say something. Recite poetry. Sing. Why yell?" Is it supposed to be a barbaric yawp thing?
Emily: I don't know... I can imagine in that moment, knowing what you're about to do is going to kill you, words might escape you I'd be like, oh fuck, I can't think of any song lyrics right now
Mary Kay: True. Okay, what about the monsters themselves? What did you think of them?
Emily: I was surprised they were revealed so early in the movie And in my screening of it, which was also very full, I felt like the overall reaction was, "Oh! They're, like... spiders." But then when we get close-ups later on, it was more Xenomorph-y Like in Alien.
Mary Kay: Kind of... but they're mostly ear. Giant ears with... what are those panels called they put on the top of theaters and auditoriums?... and legs with too many knees. I was glad they were revealed. Otherwise there would have been a potential for conspiracy or an M. Night Shyamalan ending. And fuck that noise.
Emily: I just meant they were like the Xenomorph in that their heads open up to reveal other things. And, ugh, yeah I'm so glad there wasn't a twist.
Mary Kay: Oh shit, yeah, you're right. I fucking hate twist endings. It's like WHY DID I WATCH THIS HOUR AND A HALF THING.
Emily: Also, Xenomorphs scare the shit out of me
Mary Kay: I don't like the facehuggers. The facehuggers are the worst to me. Oh, but one of my students did say he thought the ending was a sort of deus ex machina, though. Because how could NO ONE have found that frequency before?
Emily: Well... I don't know It did seem strange that they hadn't figured that out earlier, but I guess you would have to find that frequency AND realize that the monsters were vulnerable in that moment AND make the connection.
Mary Kay: Yeah, but I think someone probably DID find that frequency before, but because not everyone knows ASL, and probably the people to realize it also had cochlear implants, and the people they needed to tell about it did not... well. There's your communication as saving grace again.
Emily: Because usually when that frequency happens, the monsters just run away.
Mary Kay: Yeah, that's true. I guess also they can only hear that frequency closeup, because the noise of the gunshot made them run towards them.
Emily: Yeah. Dummies. Who runs TOWARDS gun shots?
Mary Kay: DUMMIES. My ass didn't in that stress dream I had. JUST SAYING.
Emily: EXACTLY. They're all ears, no brains.
Mary Kay: You ain't lying. Ohhhhhhh...! do you have anything you want to talk about in the silo scene?
Emily: Oh, man, okay. What a cool set up. This movie does a good job of piling things onto characters. Like, as we mentioned earlier, with the going into labor part.
Mary Kay: Yes. I gasped aloud when he fell through, and then I was like SHIT. THEY'RE GONNA FIND THEM BECAUSE I GASPED.
Emily: And then here, it's like, they're trying to find their dad, they are drowning, the monsters find them.
Mary Kay: But when that beastie falls down there, they flip that door over IN UNISON. That's right, chall. The children are our future. The can think like prey. They're adaptable.
Emily: For a moment I thought it was going to be like the end of Titanic. But they were like nah we can both use this door and survive. Which is what JACK AND ROSE SHOULD HAVE DONE. CHILDREN ARE SMARTER.
Okay, so what did you think about the man in the forest?
Emily: I liked that the man in the forest bit happened because it was good to see other people in the world for a moment. Aside from the lights. Also, it was terrifying.
Mary Kay: It scared me that the little boy was looking at the house the whole time. I was thinking YOU'RE PROBABLY NOT WATCHING FOR THE RIGHT THING, and then he ran into daddy Jim. Foook! I didn't realize why we were scared of that old toothless guy until daddy Jim put his finger to his lips. Anyway. Did you like the ending?
Emily: As for the end... I don't know what I wanted. But I just sort of felt like, oh, okay. Like it felt like an afterthought .
Mary Kay: Oh, I see. I was satisfied, but I was not, like epiphanized.
Emily: Right. It was just like, oh okay. It wasn't the highlight of the movie but it didn't bother me either. It was a utilitarian ending. The movie needed an ending. So there one was.
Mary Kay: Maybe that is just the nature of this kind of scary movie. Maybe it couldn't go full-FUBAR because it wanted the PG13 rating for viewers.
Emily: I think it should have just gone full Alien R Give us more monster grossness. And GET AWAY FROM HER YOU BITCH. Except that's Aliens.
Mary Kay: I would have liked more FUBAR. I guess that's my main criticism: Was it fucked up enough, though?
Emily: No, it could have been more fucked up. I want more moments like the birthing scene where I was like, OH, NO, I CAN'T HANDLE THIS.
Mary Kay: I agree. And the foot stepping on scene.
Emily: I think of that as the same bit. All the really fucked up shit happens to the mom like always. Like from the water breaking to the birth I was like, AW HELL NO. Yeah cause being a mom IS HARD WORK.
Mary Kay: I don’t know what it is with me lately, but all of the horror movies I've seen have had to do with pregnancy and the horrors of it.
Emily: A lot of horror movies have that element to it. Because pregnancy is horrifying.
Mary Kay: Like, Rosemary's Baby, The Girl with All the Gifts, Alien...
Emily: Even Alien has a lot of pregnancy metaphors in it. I'm just going to keep talking about Alien.
Mary Kay: We're doing Alien on the podcast next. After Rosemary's Baby.
Emily: Those are both good ones.
Mary Kay: Yep. You wanna talk about anything else?
Emily: Ummmmm... I kept wondering how Emily Blunt was keeping on top of touching up her roots during this apocalypse. Because that was NOT a natural blonde color.
Mary Kay: I don't know about blonde hair, but they did go to the drug store.
Emily: Yeah, but like... that seems like maybe something that shouldn't be top priority. But what do I
know. My hair grows extremely fast.
Mary Kay: You think you're better than me?
Mary Kay: BYE.
Emily: OMG that was Ben! Ugh, fucking Ben!
A Quiet Place is almost definitely still screening at a theater near you.