‘A Quiet Place’ vs. ‘The Nun’: How to Make a Successful Horror Film


Alex Jowanovitz

NEW KIND OF HORROR. Freshman, Annamarie Jowanovitz, watches the horror film “A Quiet Place”. The film uniquely brings together tense action and gripping family drama, which creates something more intense than the average horror film. “It’s really suspenseful but also really emotional,” Jowanovitz said.

2017 was a great year to be a horror movie fan, and this is coming from someone who does not care for horror movies that much (They are too scary, okay?).

Last year saw some critically and commercially successful horror outings including Jordan Peele’s Oscar-winning “Get Out” and the feature-length adaptation of Stephen King’s “It”.

Also released in 2017 were “Annabelle: Creation,” “It Comes at Night,” “Happy Death Day,” and “Split,” which were all praised by critics as well as our wallets.

So what happened, 2018 horror movies?

So far, only two horror films released this year have actually come close to matching the success of the movies I previously mentioned.  The films are John Krasinski’s “A Quiet Place”, and the independent film “Hereditary.”

Every other horror film this year has failed to meet the accomplishments of the above two blockbusters.

“Insidious: The Last Key,” “The First Purge,” “Slender Man,” “Truth or Dare,” and “The Cloverfield Paradox” have all been critical and financial failures, and haven’t stuck around long enough to leave an impression on people.

“The Nun,” a prequel to the popular “Conjuring” franchise, recently hit theatres.  While critical opinion is not all that favorable, the horror film pulled in a hefty $53.5 million its opening weekend, an all-time high for the series.

What makes this film interesting is the clear divide between the public and the critics.  While audience reception does not seem to be high either, there is no denying that the film is making an impact at the box office.

Since both “The Nun” and the previously mentioned “A Quiet Place” became big box office successes this year, I thought it would be interesting to compare the two in terms of the premise, the execution, and the overall impact.

The Premise

Here is the setup for “The Nun”:  A young nun working at a monastery is being hunted by a demon and is doing everything she can to stop it.  The end.

Here is the setup for “A Quiet Place”: A family has to survive in a world where if you make any sort of sound, monsters will hunt you down and kill you.  The end.

Which one, based on what I just said, sounds more interesting?

The premise for “A Quiet Place” is unique and something that audiences have not seen before in film.  The premise for “The Nun” is just a standard horror movie setup that has a slightly different setting.

Part of what I think made “A Quiet Place” work for a lot of people was the unpredictability of the story.  Since it was an original idea, audiences would not have had too much of an idea as to what would happen next.

In comparison, “The Nun” seems to borrow elements from other horror stories instead of creating a whole new setup.  Since the audience has probably seen films with a similar plot, the element of surprise is gone because there are only so many ways the film can go.

The Execution

Execution of a premise is a direct product of the quality of the premise itself.  If you have a weak premise, chances are the execution will be weak too.

Now granted, this is not always the case, and it does not have to be.  For example, “The Nun” is said to boast strong performances despite a cliched premise.

The young lead of the film, Taissa Farmiga,  is apparently making a name for herself and is being called by critics as the next big breakout actress.

That being said, “The Nun” is often reliant on jump scares, which unfortunately makes the film feel tired, and none of these scares are all that innovative.  This says a lot about the execution of the final product.

While the actors give it their all, the performances do not hide the fact that the execution of the mediocre premise is, well, mediocre.

“A Quiet Place”, since it is premise is fresh and unique, has an successful execution in contrast.  While there is plenty of jump scares, they do not overstay their welcome and leave room for character development.

At its core, “A Quiet Place” is about a family fighting for survival, which can create drama on it’s own.  When added with horror elements, things can get really suspenseful.

“The Nun” does not have the same amount of effort gone into it to make you care for the characters; the movie is just designed to scare you, whereas “A Quiet Place” aims to create real human connections as well as some scares.

The execution of “A Quiet Place” is so successful because of its unique premise coupled with real human characters we can relate to.  The execution for “The Nun” pales in comparison because it lacks those two key elements.

The Impact

“A Quiet Place” was a surprise hit, taking the April box office by storm and racking up around $200 million during its run.  This is huge for a low budget original horror film

“The Nun,” as previously mentioned, made around $54 million in its opening weekend and is on track to be the highest grossing film in the “Conjuring” franchise.

What is important to note that “The Nun” is part of a larger franchise, one that has amassed around $500 million domestically, so its success was expected.

But seeing how it is just a standard horror film with not a lot new going for it, I cannot really see “The Nun” sticking around in the public conscious for too long, at least not as long as “A Quiet Place” has.

The success of “A Quiet Place” has told Hollywood that people want to see smart horror with elements of drama, similar to last years juggernaut “Get Out”.

Studios seem to be listening, as a sequel to “A Quiet Place” has already been greenlit for a May 2020 release date.

In comparison, “The Nun” just doesn’t seem to have the potential of becoming a staple of the horror genre like “A Quiet Place” has quickly become.

Realistically, I could have replaced “The Nun” with any other standard horror film that came out this year and the results against “A Quiet Place” would turn out pretty similarly.

On the other hand, if we were to compare “A Quiet Place” with one of the horror successes of last year,  the two films would end up looking pretty similar. Many horror films last year had unique premises and great execution.

For some reason, we just did not get as many unique and fresh ideas in the horror genre this year like we did in 2017.  This in turn has led to a lot of horror films this year being financial bombs at the box office.

Successful horror movies tend to do something new and interesting with the ideas of horror tropes, whereas bad horror films just recycle the tropes instead of making them new.

  But fear not, horror fans, because the year is not over yet.  Two more mainstream horror films are set for release in the closing months of 2018.

“Suspiria,” a remake of the classic film from the 1970’s, is gracing the big screen thanks to director Luca Guadagnino off the back of his previous film, “Call Me By Your Name”.

 October, the prime month for all things scary, is bringing us the return of the slasher franchise “Halloween,” set to be a direct sequel to the first film from 1978.

Even if these films do disappoint, horror fans can still look back and reminisce on the good that came out of 2017’s horror films.  Plus, there is always 2019 to look forward to.