This is an unusually effective horror movie, especially given the simplicity of its premise.
As it opens, we meet the Abbott family tiptoeing through an empty small town and picking up items they need at stores. Nobody says a word, and the parents, Lee (Jim Krasinsky) and Evelyn (Emily Blunt), watch their children to be sure they maintain a careful silence.
As they walk quietly home, one of the children turns on a battery-powered toy, and we see the consequences: An alien force appears out of nowhere and snatches the boy, who is lost forever.
We learn that the aliens cannot see or smell but depend instead on their aural sense to locate their prey. Making noise means certain death for humans and animals.
The Abbotts may have outlasted the first attacks that killed their neighbors because they know sign language — their oldest child is deaf — but that opening sequence raises the question of whether they can survive over the long term.
As a practical matter, the very limited dialogue requires more of the actors, whose behavior and nonverbal interactions must make the audience care about their characters. This is done well here, particularly in Blunt’s portrayal of the mother’s concerns.
Events proceed, the threat escalates, and parents and children do their best to protect each other as the film reaches its climax. There are plot holes, as in all such movies, and the film ends with a moment of success but without a final resolution.
That said, the story is tight and not over-ambitious. It also is well paced with an efficient 90-minute running time.
Krasinski, best known heretofore as Jim, the amiable paper salesman in “The Office” television series, cowrote and directed the movie. He seems to have the skills for more such work.
The cinematography, by Charlotte Bruus Christensen, deftly counterposes the beauty and intimacy of a farm family’s life with the lurking threat that shows itself only late in the film. The contrast enhances the overall effect.
Recent movies, including this one, go to great lengths to portray women as powerful agents who confront evil, protect the helpless and perform acts of great heroism.
This is not inappropriate. Older films typically portrayed female characters as passive or in minor supporting roles or as victims needing rescue by strong men.
Still, the degree of the corrective pendulum swing is remarkable.