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Sounding Out ‘A Quiet Place’

A look at the sound of the sound-focused horror hit.

John Krasinski may be best-known for his years on The Office, but that may not hold for much longer, now that he’s directed, co-written and starred in the hit horror flick, A Quiet Place. Made for $21 million, the flick scared up $50.3 million on its opening weekend as audiences flocked to see Krasinski and real-life wife Emily Blunt play parents protecting their family against blind aliens who hunt by listening for sound.

Sound design for the flick was handled by E² Sound, founded by Ethan Van der Ryn and Erik Aadahl. The company’s credits include sound design and sound editing work for various Transformers and Kung Fu Panda films, and other credits include The Lord Of The Rings series, Godzilla and The Tree Of Life

A key sound in the film was a ringing feedback loop caused by a character’s cochlear implant, but finding a example that would amp up the energy of the film without driving the audience mad was no simple task. As Krasinski told the New York Times, “We had like 100 different versions of feedback. The first few feedback sounds they created would have made you vomit. So it was this long process of fine-tuning it.”

Other choices faced by the audio team included deciding what the aliens sounded like themselves—a tricky thing as the creatures used echolocation to determine where their prey was, so they tended to be quiet as a result. When not tracking, however, the aliens had something more akin to an “idling mode,” according to Van der Ryn, who told than plenty of animal sounds were used to achieve that: “We used a lot of snorting, sniffing, rasping—to give them an organic grossness.”

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With the film so dependent on silence, that also meant the crew had to be likewise silent during production, as Krasinski related: “We learned together how quiet it needed to be. Like, no, you literally can’t move because we need the room tone, we need the breeze through the trees, we need the corn, we need the barn. It wasn’t like, yeah, I’ll put in ‘barn’ later.”

That, ironically, mirrors part of a Comedy Central sketch released on Instagram, envisioning what life might like for a stereotypically scruffy audio engineer working on the film.