Have we seen the Creatures from 'A Quiet Place' Before?
In 2018 I remember being head-over-heels excited for A Quiet Place. John Krasinski’s sci-fi horror film (written by him, Bryan Woods and Scott Beck) seemed to fully utilise a blisteringly simple yet demanding concept and would turn silence into a weaponised tension gun that would fire every single chance it got. Whilst it attracted rave reviews and big box-office return (so much so that a sequel is out next week, no less) I unfortunately wasn’t enamoured with the finished product. But that’s just my opinion and purely just a matter of taste.
However there was something that was bugging me about it. For those of you unaware A Quiet Place tells the dystopian story of a world invaded by aliens with hypersensitive hearing meaning if you make a sound, you can be damn sure they’re gonna hunt you down. Krasinki, Emily Blunt and their two surviving kids have managed to carve a bearable existence on a farmland where they’ve tailored their lifestyle to…well, being quiet. Of course, something goes wrong and the fact that Blunt’s Evelyn is coming to the end of her pregnancy presents them with insurmountable problems in the very near future. Now, A Quiet Place utilises its concept greatly and wears its influences on its sleeve but the Aros (the alien creatures themselves) felt somewhat familiar to me.
Fleetingly referred to as ‘Death Angels’ in various newspaper headlines scattered throughout the film, the Aros are vaguely-humanoid creatures that can spring across four limbs – with the front two elongated for galloping. This means they’re typically hunched over and whilst they’ve retained a whole jaw of razor-sharp teeth for chewing up their prey their enhanced hearing means they have no need for visuals so the creatures themselves are blind.
I swear I had seen this monster before. So let’s take a trip back to 2007 on ITV1 shall we? As we discuss the future predator from the TV sci-fi drama Primeval.
Created by the team behind Walking with Dinosaurs, Primeval was the mixture of dinosaurs and fiction I had pined for more of growing up. Adrian Hodges and Tim Haines’ show filled the Saturday-night excitement gap that felt like an aching hole whenever Doctor Who wasn’t around, and I loved every minute of it. The premise consists of monster-of-the-week-style adventures as wormholes (or anomalies) in time open up allowing creatures great and small to impede everyday life. You want a Gorgonopsid in a primary school? You got it. A Mosasaur in a swimming pool? Easy. What about a Woolly Mammoth on the M25 motorway? Well gosh-darn it, you’re becoming spoilt because they got that too. Each week Nick Cutter (Douglas Henshall) and his ragtag group of scientists and government agents would save the world from whatever nasties were in the mix.
Yet whilst the first season had only featured anomalies and creatures from the past, the series finale threw a curveball ripped straight from the dictionary of good ideas. This time, this week, a creature from the future had broken free. This meant the threat was unlike anything the team (or I) had faced before. There was no possible research to do, and to 11-year-old me – that was terrifying and amazing. Director Jamie Payne and Impossible Pictures aren’t shy with letting their creature be seen either. It’s a grey, fleshy, thin, ape-like creature with a…hunched back and…elongated arms that’s…evolved to no longer need eyes. Hold on a minute.
The creatures are both similar in stature and demeanour. Whilst the Aros’ heads expand to visualise the tension of their use of echolocation. The future predator however features a simpler, more naturalistic approach. With embedded slits where the eyes have evolved away and chattering, dolphin-like clicks to communicate. It’s interesting that both of these creatures heavily rely on echolocation yet represent two opposing forces. Whilst A Quiet Place of course weaponises the natural tension, Primeval (being a family show on primetime) couldn’t lean too far into anything too horror-central and had to keep a general audience happy. This meant that the show essentially used the creatures throughout its run as a ‘big baddie’ – popping up every now and then to show you when some people need to die. It was the show’s answer to the Daleks.
Yes, the future predator from Primeval is tremendously similar to the Aros featured in A Quiet Place but I’m not suggesting any type of theft or plagiarism here. Instead, I want to explore the introduction of the creature in Primeval and possibly remind some of those who loved the film and wondered why some of it felt familiar.
After a handful of people go missing and some unnamed characters are picked off, Connor (Andrew-Lee Potts) discovers blood at the scene – which is later confirmed to have elements of bat DNA. This means the Coronavirus isn’t the only thing bats are getting the blame for. Cutter and co. discover that the predators are actually evolved from bats and live in the distant future (though later on we find out they were created by human experimentation? But then what about the ones left in the Permian era? It all gets a bit messy) and are pretty much killing machines. Thanks to their echolocation tactics they can almost predict movement due to the sound and are expects at stalking their prey. This mostly devolves in the show’s characters using the ‘nobody move a muscle’ technique for the Tyrannosaurus Rex in Jurassic Park.
However, the creature’s first appearance took inspiration from two huge sources – Alien and Predator. At various points we’re treated to POV shots from the creature itself, though we’re actually seeing its echolocation in play as everything turns into night-vision and we’re treated to heat signatures (movements) ripped straight from the Schwarzenegger action horror. After figuring out their techniques, Connor is then sent to retrieve a tracker that beeps and harkens back to the dreaded tech from the Alien franchise. Both of these rips are shameless, but they help add whatever tension can be mustered. This whole episode is Ridley Scott’s original in scope, whilst the mass-appearances through the series later on reach James Cameron’s Aliens-level of action and clutter.
Of course, the ramifications of this creature causing the end of humanity is brought into question, as it’s revealed to have given birth. Just one of these creatures is enough to pick off a seemingly-endless array of armed soldiers by jittering from tree-to-tree and swinging its claws into various chest cavities. They’re not invincible and just animals of course, but it’s slowing them down long enough to get a good shot that’s the problem. And this is where Nick Cutter becomes an action hero. He steals one of the creature’s offspring and lures it into a greenhouse with a pistol in his hand. Then just as the creature catches up and looks ready to pounce, he fires at the glass panels above, causing disruption and confusion to the creature’s tracking abilities, long enough to round off a single shot to the head. It’s a punch-the-air in triumph moment and I remember thinking it was one of the coolest things I’d ever seen at the time.
Across its five seasons (and one Canadian spinoff) Primeval also introduced some other original creatures from a nightmare future, including the Megopteran (like a giant praying mantis) and the Camo Beast (a house gremlin that could camouflage itself). It was hardly original, but it was always exciting. It never fully took advantage of some of its better concepts however, and one of those was the future predator (despite the creature becoming an almost-mascot for the show).
Whilst the Aros from A Quiet Place has also been compared to the Demogorgon from Stranger Things, it’s just a case of humanoid creature design. Lots of fantastical creatures tend to look alike when they follow a carbon-based life structure. It’s what the text does with that design that makes it special. Likewise the use of echolocation makes sense for both stories. There’s an inherent otherworldliness to a being that has an inhuman ability to hear, whilst the notion of a being close to human has long proven to be worthy nightmare fuel. The concept art for the Aros range from zombie-like disfigured humans to bulky, armour-plated warlords that look like they belong on WWE, and with a studio budget they were able to give them the weight and presentation they deserved. Of course, whether their increase in numbers still has the desired effect remains to be seen, but we don’t have long to wait for A Quiet Place: Part Two.
Chances are if you grew up in the UK through the mid-00s you caught an episode or two of Primeval. Whilst some talk of a film adaptation was brought up amidst the show’s cancellation, it ultimately fell to the wayside. Whilst I’m not sure if there’d be a place for it among today’s television-enthused landscape, I’m glad it existed and brought some interesting ideas along with it. At some point maybe I’ll talk about the show and its weaving continuity and quality but for now, I think I’m just gonna rewatch a couple of episodes and play with my future predator action figure. Because if there’s an action figure of it, it’s gotta be cool…right?
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