IN MOST cinemas, films are preceded by a polite request that patrons switch off their mobile phones. Wherever “A Quiet Place” is shown, that request should be upgraded to a legal requirement and transgressors should be frogmarched from the building. There is so little dialogue in this nerve-shredding post-apocalyptic survival chiller that it almost counts as a silent movie, and yet sound has rarely been more crucial to a story. The ingenious high-concept is that bloodthirsty, presumably alien, monsters have butchered most of humanity, but these near-indestructible crab-creatures are sightless so track their quarry using their super-sensitive ears. Silence, therefore, is more than golden. If somebody drops a cup or sneezes, they might well be punished with a foot-long claw through the belly, so any viewer who breaks the spell by letting their phone ring deserves a similar, if not so extreme, punishment.

Appropriately, considering that the characters dare not speak, the scenario unfolds according to the old screenwriting maxim that it is better to show than to tell. Nobody spells out where the monsters came from, or how the world’s armed forces reacted, but we get the gist during the course of a hushed pre-title sequence which, as in so many of the best horror movies, would work as a short film in itself. Some people are scavenging in a picturesque mountain town’s deserted supermarket. They are barefoot and communicate only in sign language. A glimpsed newspaper headline hints at the wholesale slaughter which began three months earlier. But the film leaves it to us to figure out what exactly has happened. Nonetheless, the importance of keeping the volume low is conveyed so effectively that, after only a few minutes, the sight of a space shuttle toy and a pair of AA batteries is enough to bring us out in a cold sweat.

The central couple is played by real-life spouses, Emily Blunt and John Krasinski, who is also the film’s director and co-writer. Mr Krasinski and the two other writers, Bryan Woods and Scott Beck, seem to have thought of everything. Once the couple and their children are back home in their farmhouse, we see the leaves they use for plates, the pathways of sand which allow them to run through their overgrown cornfields without injuring their bare feet, the patches of paint which mark where it is safe to walk without the floorboards creaking. (Still, scavenging for some deep-pile carpet samples might have been simpler). We also see that the couple’s teenage daughter is deaf (as is the actress who plays her, Millicent Simmons) which explains why the family is fluent in sign language. Incidentally, between “A Quiet Place”, “The Shape of Water”, “The Silent Child”, and Todd Haynes’ “Wonderstruck”, which features Ms Simmons, sign language has never been in so many films at once.

What is so remarkable about all this painstaking scene-setting is that it amounts to a warmly-lit rural idyll, in which a loving family in cosy knitwear shares meals and plays games in the leafy countryside. Taking his cue from “Alien” (1979), among other creature features, Mr Krasinski sensibly keeps the monsters off-screen for the first half of his immaculately constructed film. But because we know, right from the start, that anything noisier than a whisper will probably result in immediate disembowelling, we are simultaneously chuckling at the narrative craftiness and squirming with constant, almost unbearable, tension. The most devilish detail of all is that the heroine is heavily pregnant, so that even when there is no immediate threat, we are chilled by an awful question: how the hell do you stop a newborn baby crying?

When the fanged fiends do eventually attack, and “The Quiet Place” becomes a not-so-quiet rollercoaster ride, Mr Krasinski is just as clever. He keeps finding new ways to torture the characters and the audience, but they always spring logically and satisfyingly from the premise and the setting. He is careful, too, not to go for cheap laughs. On one level, his film is an amusing exercise in sustaining a slight B-movie conceit for 90 minutes, but it has the raw performances and anguished mood of a tender-hearted parenting drama. File it alongside “It Follows” (2014) and “Get Out” (2017) as an original and intelligent horror triumph which you don’t have to be a horror fan to enjoy. It is bound to make a big noise.

“A Quiet Place” is released on April 5th in Britain and April 6th in America