2018’s A Quiet Place sorta came out of nowhere. While many were interested in seeing how John Krasinski, whose talents in front of and behind the camera had never strayed towards horror, handled such a thorny genre. In fact, it was exactly because he’s not a “horror guy” that it was so effective, so emotionally resonant and deep. Krasinski put his focus on character as much as scares, and we were captivated by the Abbott clan and their fight to survive the all-hearing monsters at their door.
With the long-awaited (delayed like so many things because of the pandemic) A Quiet Place Part II, Krasinski returns behind the camera but does something a bit different. Taking over the script himself, Krasinski’s made this more of a “franchise-y” effort. And the film does exactly what one would expect a franchise sequel to do: it greatly expands the world of A Quiet Place, making this feel like a much larger story. It also packs more quick scares which will make a certain kind of horror fan happy, but in doing so some of that delicious tension is sacrificed.
What Krasinski hasn’t forgotten is how to grab us immediately and invest emotionally. Opening with a wild flashback to the day of the monsters’ arrival, we’re reminded of Krasinski’s amazing use of sound, and the lack of it, to amp up the terror. It’s especially effective in the early going when we know the characters are unsure of what is going on. We know why someone’s cell phone going off is the worst possible thing to happen, but the shock from them finding out why for the first time is immensely satisfying.
Feeling more than ever like a family affair, Krasinski’s sequel picks up moments after the first movie’s bittersweet conclusion. The remaining Abbotts, led by matriarch Evelyn (played by Krasinski’s real-life wife Emily Blunt), courageous daughter Regan (Millicent Simmonds), and son Marcus (Noah Jupe) don’t have time to grieve the death of their father Lee (Krasinski, seen only briefly) in the defense of his family. The sadness they feel is tinged with fresh hope. Evelyn has given birth to a child, while the brilliant Regan has figured out a way to use her hearing aid to temporarily stun the monsters, revealing a weakness that could turn the tide.
With their home destroyed, the Abbotts must brave the dangerous outside world, leaving behind the isolated sanctuary they had built for themselves. While they were happy, they were also too sheltered from how dark and twisted humanity has become, the result of over a year of living in silent fear. That makes the discovery of a possible friend, Emmett (Cillian Murphy), laced with a great deal of trepidation, especially when his own tragic backstory comes to the surface. He doesn’t believe there’s anyone out there worth saving, including the Abbotts, and when a plan emerges to use what they know to defeat the monsters, Emmett isn’t for it. Good thing Regan is courageous enough for everybody. Family legacy plays a big role in A Quiet Place, and while Lee isn’t there physically his knowledge and optimism, which run counter to everything Emmett stands for, are always instrumental.
It’s when a song is heard on the radio, one that may be more clue than simple tune, that Regan sets out to find survivors and spread word about the aliens’ weakness. The journey isn’t long, but when every step is possibly the last it is harrowing nonetheless. And with each step, this universe Krasinski has created expands just a little bit more. There’s a balance at play here, between getting too big and keeping the intimate feel of the prior film. In some ways Krasinski succeeds, in particular with the action that is more impressive, more visceral than before. In other ways, like the frequency that we actually see the monsters, it topples to the other side. The more we get a look at the insect-like attackers and the ease with which some are beaten, the less we can take them seriously as a threat.
The real source of our fear for these characters is the sensory component. Sound kills. And the Abbotts always seem to find new, incredible ways to put themselves in situations where staying quiet is nearly impossible. What A Quiet Place Part II does extremely well is separate the Abbotts and put them in jeopardy where they can’t lean on one another for help. We know they’re strong together, but this gives us a chance to see how strong they are on their own. While the world-building is still pretty strong, the film drags its feet to get moving, and is curiously dull when the Abbotts aren’t under duress.
With Krasinski gone, the bulk of the emotional heft falls on Simmonds, whose Regan has become a force all her own. But is she strong enough to save humanity? With “passing the torch” a core theme, A Quiet Place Part II is driven by its youngest stars. Simmonds and Jupe are given wide berth to flesh out Regan and Marcus so they are more than just fatalities waiting to happen. Both characters show agency and set themselves up to have a bigger role when the inevitable Part III arrives. Blunt is extraordinary as always, even as Evelyn takes something of a backseat to her co-stars. Murphy is a great addition to the cast, as well. We can’t help but understand Emmett’s grief, feel his pain, and believe his desire to remain cut off from the outside world. A couple of recognizable faces show up for what amount to disappointing cameos, and it’s unclear why such big names were necessary at all.
We went into the first film not knowing what to expect, and it’s clear Krasinski went in expecting this to be a one-and-done. A Quiet Place Part II is a sequel that entertains just enough to get us to the next movie, and it’s disappointing to have to think of it that way when we know this thing Krasinski has created can take our breath away.
A Quiet Place Part II opens in theaters on May 28th, followed by Paramount+ in 45 days.