A Quiet Place: Day One Director Michael Sarnoski Talks Monsters' Powers & Horror (Exclusive)

By Russ Milheim Posted:
Joseph Quinn and monster in A Quiet Place: Day One

The director of A Quiet Place: Day One confirmed one key power of the franchise’s monsters that fans suspected they had.

This post-apocalyptic world is known for being overrun by alien lifeforms who are ruthless against the humans they are invading. Notably, they have superhuman hearing—the moment anyone makes a sound, they are toast.

But many have been curious about how far those abilities extend and how much the monsters - which are referred to as 'Death Angels' on a newspaper headline in the first A Quiet Place - can register with their sense of sound.

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A Quiet Place: Day One monster scene with Joseph Quinn and Lupita Nyong'o
A Quiet Place: Day One

In an exclusive interview with The Direct’s Russ Milheim, A Quiet Place: Day One director Michael Sarnoski revealed a key power that the film’s monsters have.

With the intense hearing that the creatures showcase in the film franchise, many have wondered if they have the power to hear the heartbeats of nearby humans, though an answer has never explicitly been given.

"They can," the director confirmed about their extraterrestrial abilities, noting that if "you’re scared enough," the creatures "can hear it:"

"No, they can. There actually was a scene at one point that we were going to play with that. But, no, I think they can. I think if you're scared enough and your heart is pounding enough, they can hear it. I think it's just that there's a lot of relative sound going on. The human heartbeat is audible but rarely louder than whatever is happening environmentally. So if the sound that you're making is louder than the environment, then you're screwed. But occasionally, you get scared enough that your heartbeat might be loud enough for that."

Keeping audiences aware of the general level of ambient sound is certainly a unique challenge these movies present to filmmakers.

"There’s always a tricky balance," the director explained, which is "one of the fun parts of the sound mix and everything in the design:" 

"Yeah, there's always a tricky balance of, you want to keep up the tension, and you want to keep up people understanding, oh, no, this sound and this sound could be dangerous. But you also don't want people to feel like you're cheating them. So constantly playing with that environmental versus sounds that our characters are making is one of the fun parts of the sound mix and everything in the design." 

That "perfect balance" was something they were "always figuring out" during the process:

"But yeah, it's something we were kind of always figuring out. What's that perfect balance where we're taking it as far as we can, without people throwing their hands up and saying, 'Well, that doesn't make any sense.'"

After the first two movies, it was revealed that these monsters have one key weakness, feedback.

This led fans to claim that people could, in theory, just carry around boomboxes with feedback playing and be okay. The same logic might be applied to helicopters flying overhead.

The Direct ran those theories by Sarnoski, who focused on how "they haven't figured it out yet in this movie," and the revelation is something he "actively want[ed] to avoid:"

"My thought is that they haven't figured it out yet in this movie. I mean, we see it in the first movie, that it took a while for them to find that out. I mean, I have sort of my own theories on that. And I've talked a little bit with John about it. There are some theories around that. And I, yeah, I have my thoughts on it. But mostly, I was like, that's something I kind of actively want to avoid in this movie because it's a pretty big deal when they discover that in the first movie, and that's a year and a half later."

A Quiet Place: Part II also set some high expectations for what day one of this apocalypse looked like.

While the director spent plenty of time "studying those movies," he tried his best to "focus on [Lupita Nyong’o’s] Sam" and "her story:"

"Yeah, I mean, partially by studying those movies and then trying to forget as much as I could so that I could really kind of focus on these characters and this vision of the world. So, if you're constantly trying to react to what people have seen before and expect, I think it will inevitably feel somehow derivative. So I just tried to focus on Sam, her story, how she's experiencing this, and how to portray that and feel like we're with her. And that was kind of my in; I was just always falling back on character."

Structuring scenes where no one can make loud noises probably is not easy, but even with all that logistical brainstorming, did Sarnoski ever find himself having to rework sequences on set for practical reasons?

That situation "rarely" happened on set, the director clarified, explaining how he feels he was able to figure most of that out during the brainstorming process accurately:

"I mean, it was something that I was always thinking about in the writing phase. So rarely on set did we show up, and someone was like, they can't do that. That's way too loud. But there were definitely little nuances that we were always playing with, or Lupita [Nyong'o] or [Joseph Quinn] would say, 'Okay, I think I need to do this this way.'"

He went on to elaborate how a lot of that was the actors finding the moment and that he doesn’t remember a specific moment where big problems came up:

"But a lot of that was them finding the physical truth of that moment and exploring that. So I don't think there was a moment when we were suddenly like, 'Well, darn, that makes zero sense.' But we always talked about it, like, how would you move? How would you interact with this stuff? It was kind of always at the front of mind."

While Lupita Nyong'o's Sam and Joseph Quinn’s Eric lead the movie, the real star is Sam’s cat, Frodo.

On why they chose to include a cat in such an integral moment, it "made a lot of sense," and his involvement "came pretty early on:"

"So the cat, Frodo's character, came pretty early on. The first thing I sort of found with Sam's character that was my initial in. I wanted to explore a unique, emotional journey in this world at the end of time of the fall of civilization. And I thought that her sort of place in her life was a really interesting spot to kind of enter that world. And then the cat just made a lot of sense. It was sort of a thing that she carried from her past life, this kind of New York street cat, and I liked the idea that she had this kind of this one connection to her past life."

"I think a cat is one of the few animals that might have a shot at surviving," the filmmaker admitted, pointing out how he "[doesn’t] think a dog would do great:"

"I thought, on a practical level, I think a cat is one of the few animals that might have a shot at surviving in the 'Quiet Place' world. They're kind of sly and silent, I don't think a dog would do great. Then, the cat took on this larger emotional meaning as it went from being a connection to her past life to being a connection with Eric's character. So I don't know, just this kind of image of Sam walking through a destroyed New York with her cat was really striking and made a lot of sense. And then it was just sort of exploring what that could mean to the movie."

He added that when it comes to more talkative cats, "[he would] like to think they'd see one person get killed and be like, I know a thing or two about hunting, I'm gonna keep it quiet."

The entire spoiler free interview can be viewed here:

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A Quiet Place: Day One hits theaters on Friday, June 28.

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- In This Article: A Quiet Place: Day One
Release Date
June 28, 2024
Alex Wolff
Djimon Hounsou
Joseph Quinn
- About The Author: Russ Milheim
Russ Milheim is the Industry Relations Coordinator at The Direct. On top of utilizing his expertise on the many corners of today’s entertainment to cover the latest news and theories, he establishes and maintains communication and relations between the outlet and the many studio and talent representatives.