Part of what makes A Quiet Place such a compelling and inventive new sci-fi horror is the nature of the monsters that destroy the world. We follow a family struggling to survive in the apocalypse by using sign language and making as little noise as possible. But A Quiet Place also reboots a beloved sci-fi trope in a compelling new way.
Beware: HUGE A Quiet Place spoilers follow regarding the nature of the monsters and the big finale.
“If they hear you, they hunt you.” is the logline of A Quiet Place, and it’s with good reason. You learn very quickly that the creatures hunting the Abbott family are some kind of blind alien species with insanely good hearing. You know how dogs can hear pitches of sound that we can’t? Imagine that tenfold, making these things the best hunters in the universe — as long as their prey makes noise.
But their greatest strength also winds up being their greatest weakness when the Abbott family accidentally develops a kind of sonic weaponry to use against them, which has everything to do with sonic feedback loops.
The Doctor might famously use a sonic screwdriver to interact with all manner of digital and technical devices on Doctor Who, but sonic weaponry exists throughout tons of other sci-fi, even in the superhero worlds of DC Comics. It’s been all over shows like Arrow and The Flash where superpowered meta-humans use a “sonic scream.”
But A Quiet Place takes a more realistic, even scientific approach to this by exploring the nature of these creatures’ very physiology and how it relates to sound.
The Abbott family survives for as long as they do because their eldest daughter was born deaf years before the apocalypse. The whole family knows sign language before the monsters show up, so it helps them stay quiet. The father Lee also spends some of his spare time researching the human ear and trying to build his daughter new hearing aids. She puts a new one on midway through the movie, and surprise! It creates feedback loops of sound that hurt the monsters.
Hearing aids convert sound to electric signals and then amplify that sound to send directly into the ear. Feedback with hearing aids happens often when the speaker noise makes it out of the ear and gets picked up again by the receiver, making a loop of sound that magnifies itself endlessly.
Combine that with super-hearing and you get something that can do a lot of damage to these aliens, especially when you examine their physiology.
We get a close-up look of these monsters several times throughout the movie: Imagine the demented lovechild of the original Cloverfield monster and the Stranger Things Demogorgon with a charming smile like the Venom symbiote.
They’re around seven or eight feet tall, but they’re built like giant insects that have mantis-like arms and armored carapace around their whole body, especially around their face and head. Their head armor panels blossom outward to expose a fleshy head and neck that includes a giant, ultra-sensitive ear.
It seems like when the monsters open up their faces to “hear,” they also emit some kind of noise they might use for echolocation (like bats and whales do). In A Quiet Place, Regan’s hearing aid seemingly creates an ultra-high pitched sound that hurts the aliens. Late in the movie, when combined with a microphone and speaker system, this feedback loop fully incapacitates them, making them vulnerable enough to be taken down with traditional weaponry like a shotgun.
While all of this seems pretty crazy, it actually makes a lot of sense considering what we know about hearing and evolution. If an alien creature evolved without any eyesight, then they’d more or less have to develop otherworldly hearing, so it stands to reason that they’d be this sensitive to sound.
A Quiet Place hits theaters on April 5.
Check out the trailer right here: