Writer-director John Krasinski has been saying up and down his press tour for A Quiet Place Part II that it’s “more about going back to the theater than anything else.” Spiral may have welcomed moviegoers back to cinemas, but the Quiet Place films are truly meant for the theatrical experience.
Perhaps you recall watching the 2018 original when you sat in a dark, silent room — and I mean silent. You were scared to sneak a bite of a Skittle for fear that the box and candy wrapping would cause everyone in the audience to turn their heads at you. So, you just sat there, forced to be entirely engrossed by the terrifying scenarios that the characters were in.
Now, Krasinski takes the tension up a notch with Part II, if you can imagine holding your breath again for another 90 minutes. (Have you forgotten that there’s a baby in the mix now? Talk about writing yourself into a corner.) But Krasinski pulls it off, and the result is a perfect continuation that is neither better nor worse than its predecessor. Part II zooms out a bit to expand the story and provide more information about why the central family is where they are, what the threat is, and a hint at where the danger came from. We also get some insight into how the rest of the country is dealing with this global catastrophe.
New characters are introduced. There are more talking scenes (due to flashbacks and other exciting reasons), and the set pieces are well-drawn and fresh, giving us a thrilling feeling like Samwise Gamgee when he steps further than he has ever been. It’s how Krasinski showcases the new characters’ systems that cause you to lean in with fascination.
For instance, when we meet Emmett (Cillian Murphy), one of the neighbors who lights a fire each night, Lord of the Rings-style, he lives in a factory surrounded by concrete. He also is fenced in by sketches of his son and bottles of alcohol to subtly inform that he knows pain just as the Abbott family (Emily Blunt, Millicent Simmonds and Noah Jupe) does. Everyone has their story, and this alien annihilation impacts survivors differently. Krasinski even tears a page out of Cormac McCarthy’s The Road to tease cannibalism during one horrifying sequence at a marina. It goes to show you that the blind, Venom/Tremors-like monsters are not the only threat.
Krasinski put a lot of thought into his sequel. He recognizes the common missteps with follow-ups in a series — how studios tend to go bigger with the action, recreate what was done in the first one and capitalize on all the areas that were successes before. Part II does have more movement, where attacks happen more often, and we see terror unfold right out of the gate. (Don’t even get me started on the cold open, which is one of the most impressive openings to a sci-fi/horror movie in some time.) However, it’s more about character-building and emotional swings.
Each character gets their moment. At one point, Blunt’s character, Evelyn, has to venture out on her own to collect more supplies. As Regan, Simmonds, a deaf actress, cleverly uses tech to outsmart the sound-hungry creatures. (Krasinski cuts the sound entirely at times to fully place us in her shoes, and it only elevates the tension.) Then, we have Jupe as Marcus, who encounters a few situations involving protecting his newborn sibling from harm.
The performance that I was most taken by is Murphy’s. Hopefully, I will never know what Emmett has gone through, but his character arc and what he must overcome are great for storytelling. There’s one scene at a shore, in which he has to accept his circumstances, that is truly a punch to the gut. His relationship with the Abbott family feels honest and understandable. Plus, it’s nice to see Murphy immerse himself in another apocalyptic scenario like 28 Days Later two decades ago.
A Quiet Place: Part II roars with heart and intensity. It’s one of the better sequels out there, and there’s more room for the film series to grow (in the right hands). It looks as if Midnight Special director Jeff Nichols will have a go with another chapter set in the same universe. Hopefully, these stories will stay intimate and contained, as opposed to devolving into a war movie akin to Independence Day, and we’ll be well on our way to having a great horror franchise.