Last year, the world went quiet. A strange menace we had to learn about as we fought it took hold of the globe and forced us all to question what was truly worth living for. It’s fitting then that one of the first movies to screen exclusively in newly reopened theaters is A Quiet Place Part II, which explore both the origins and aftermath of the events in the original film. It’s a film that was one of the first to be delayed last year and hits all the more harder now that we have some context as to what it means when a foreign entity forces you to retreat to your home and stay there in order to survive.
Written and directed by John Krasinski, who also helmed and starred in the first installment, Part II opens on the day that the sound-sensitive creatures were first unleashed upon the world, presumably from a flaming mass of space debris that collides with Earth. After we see the initial moments of the invasion, the film jumps ahead to pick up immediately after the end of the first film. With Lee (Krasinski) dead and their home destroyed, the remaining Abbotts flee their broken homestead in the hopes of finding shelter with other survivors. Mom Evelyn (Emily Blunt) is grief-stricken and exhausted, fearful for her newborn baby’s survival as well as her deaf daughter Regan (Millicent Simmonds) and traumatized son Marcus (Noah Jupe). When they stumble upon family friend Emmett (Cillian Murphy), someone they knew in the “before times,” the Abbotts learn that there may be a haven for what remains of humanity nearby, but with the monsters still ravaging anything that makes even the slightest noise, it will be almost impossible to get there…
With A Quiet Place (2018), Krasinski proved himself a master of tension, and he reminds just how good he is at threading that needle in the film’s prologue, a deliciously nail-biting sequence that sees Lee going about town in what we know will be the last few normal moments of his, and the world’s, existence. Krasinski knows just what to do in order to make the audience almost sick with anticipation and then masterfully, when the invasion finally begins, shifts into a different kind of tension as all hell breaks loose and society as we know it crumbles. It’s tight, focused, directing and an excellent exercise in how to induce terror, establish pace, and set tone within the first few minutes of a film. It’s all the more palpable given how quickly we saw the real world shut down in the wake of real world emergency last spring.
That thrilling yet awful sense of dread continues throughout the film, proving both Krasinski’s growth as a director and knowledge of the genre. For a big studio film, there’s a number of unexpected scares that will catch even the most hardened horror fans out, myself included. Damn, there’s nothing like that feeling when you realize you can still be surprised, still jump in your seat, and still involuntarily suck in your breath out of fear. This is edge-of-your-seat film-making at its finest.
Blunt once again delivers a performance of grace and strength in the face of unimaginable tragedy, this time with a subdued sense of desperation at how dire the circumstances have gotten. Murphy is a fantastic addition, playing vulnerable and defeated in deft equal measure. He’s particularly good in his scenes with Simmonds, who is once again the standout performer for her captivating portrayal of Regan. She is the heart of the film, much as she was in the first entry, and that essential emotional core never gets lost amidst the carnage and drama. If A Quiet Place was essentially about grief and wounds that refuse to heal, Part II is about facing that trauma head on and learning to move on and live with hurt in a world that will never be the same again.
Perhaps the one foible I had with the film was that this movement, both physical and psychological, feels a bit forced at times. The story forces the characters into consistent trouble in a way that feels heavy-handed at times. I’m also not a fan of when characters are split up in order to increase tension, though I understand this is often necessary in order to move a narrative into its conclusion. At least when the characters do split here, everyone’s motivation makes sense, even if the choices they make don’t always add up. This is probably the most predictable part of the film overall, though in retrospect there’s not much new added to this world that we couldn’t have already assumed from the first film. In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if we saw a Part III in a few years, especially given the somewhat banal ending.
So while it doesn’t break explosive new ground in the genre or reinvent the wheel, A Quiet Place Part II does everything it’s supposed to do, and it does it right. It’s an excellent reminder of just how fun it is to be scared in a big, dark room with strangers and the joy of communal movie-going. If you haven’t been back to a theater yet and want something that will keep you engaged and alert throughout, look no further than this film. Just make sure you keep all those screams locked in your throat…you never know what might hear you…
A Quiet Place Part II
5 – Totally Terrifying
4 – Crazy Creepy
3 – Fairly Frightening
2 – Slightly Scary
1 – Hardly Horror