Review: 'A Quiet Place Part II' induces anxiety and fear in terrifying follow-up
Courtesy of Paramount Pictures
Writer-director John Krasinski remains a filmmaker to watch and his anxiety-inducing, pulse pounding “A Quiet Place Part II,” proves the lightning-in-a-bottle sensation of 2018’s “A Quiet Place” was no fluke. Krasinski took a minimalist, post apocalyptic setting and constructively birthed Paramount Pictures a new, in-house franchise. “A Quiet Place” - which upon rewatch still holds up as one of the most terrifying films of the last decade - was built on a thin premise, but somehow managed to break from the mold of countless creature features and kept audiences on their toes. In the original, ten foot tall creatures with razor sharp teeth and super-sensitive hearing dictated that everyone on earth had to stay silent in order to survive. The slightest noise meant any beast within a thirty mile radius slaughtered you instantaneously.
“A Quiet Place Part II” is a remarkable achievement in that Krasinski checks all the boxes of what makes any sequel successful: expanding on the original in a manner that doesn’t undercut its predecessor. Most sequels fail because they try to replicate what can’t be done and “A Quiet Place II” was never going to capture the original’s freshness, and Krasinski knows that and instead chooses to take the sequel in a fascinating, interesting direction, including a terrifying opening prologue which goes back to how life became upended by these creatures. Of course, it’s hard not to look at “A Quiet Place II” with its underlying themes of survival and family as metaphors for a post-pandemic world (it was the first major Hollywood film to get pushed after already having its world premiere in March 2020), but as a “welcome back” of sorts for mainstream studio blockbusters, it reminds us why movie theaters are so valuable in the first place. Nothing beats that shared experience.
Emily Blunt, Millicent Simmonds, and Noah Jupe return as the Abbott clan: Evelyn, Regan and Marcus still reeling from the events of the 2018 original and the death of their father, Lee (Krasinski - who shows up here in flashback). This taunt and tense sequel wastes no time getting the action rolling with Simmons and Jupe allotted a sizable amount of screentime. Especially the former who delivers as honest and gut wrenching a performance you’ll see all year playing Regan, who like her character, is hearing impaired in real-life, only using sign language to communicate. An effective tool considering the entire world is being ravaged by monsters who hunt on sounds.
Filling out the roster is Cillian Murphy’s Emmett, an old friend and neighbor of the Abbott’s who crosses paths with the traveling family - and their newborn baby who must be kept sedated by an oxygen tank - after a nasty throwdown in a deserted warehouse. Regan, smart and resourceful as she is, has cracked a radio signal that might be the key for future generations survival (not to mention uncovering an effective hack that renders the creatures useless long enough to put a couple shotgun slugs in their skull). Here, “A Quiet Place II” breaks into several moving parts that successfully intertwine into one climatic showdown which doesn’t offer the sense of closure you’d expect, but is still a thrilling escapist piece of entertainment. Blunt’s Evelyn is left to look after Marcus, who sustains a nasty foot injury during an opening scuffle, and the baby who is prone to making loud noises (as babies do) while Emmett and Regan explore a desolate wasteland of a world long forgotten. We quickly learn civilization has adapted drastically since the initial invasion, and let’s just say monsters aren’t the only threat lurking in the shadows.
Composer Marco Belatrami and sound designer Malte Bieler craft another eerie and spine tingling score that rivals its predecessor in sheer scope and boldness (though more dialogue exists this time around, “A Quiet Place II” still flourishes on silence and the unknown with a majority of the film projected in subtitles). It was effective in “A Quiet Place” how little audiences knew about the creatures and that sense of discovery was a key factor in keeping the mystery alive. “A Quiet Place II” gives us more breadcrumbs and even hints at the savages origins (without specifically telling us), but there are numerous close-ups and a more defined peak at their anatomy (probably because the budget was inflated a smidge) that takes away some luster. Speilberg knew how effective it was to keep the shark in “Jaws” away from the audience until the big reveal.
That influence isn’t lost on Krasinski who walks a tightrope act and juggles several edge of your seat moments with an exceptional cast willing to try and do anything for the scene. It’s the rare homegrown franchise not based on existing IP to keep building a solid pipeline of content you genuinely care about. In this universe, the possibilities are endless and I’m eager for whatever this ingenious series cooks up next.
A QUIET PLACE PART II opens in theaters Friday, May 28th.