Quiet Place Part II, A (United States, 2020)May 25, 2021
My review of John Krasinski’s 2018 A Quiet Place called the movie “a superb exercise in understated terror that puts to shame ‘horror’ films that rely on jump scares and cheap theatrics.” It was one of the best films of the year and stood on its own, neither needing nor wanting a second installment. However, as the money rolled in (with a domestic gross of about $188M and a worldwide haul of $340M), it became apparent that an unnecessary sequel would happen. The resulting picture, A Quiet Place Part II, would have been released in March 2020 if not for COVID-19. Fourteen months late, it is seeing the light of day.
When Krasinski rewrote the screenplay credited to Bryan Woods & Scott Beck, he never intended for A Quiet Place to be the opening chapter of a series. Consequently, the sequel has little to do except re-till ground already churned in the first movie. Narratively, A Quiet Place Part II could charitably be called “thin.” Not much happens. The characters’ story advances but not by a great deal (either in terms of time or events). Like many post-apocalyptic tales, this one becomes about searching for a “promised land” while being pursued by danger in the forms of alien creatures who hunt by sound and human beings whose base instincts have come to the fore.
However, while Krasinski the screenwriter may have found himself in a bind determining how to move forward, Krasinski the director makes the most out of the meager material. By separating the characters into three groups then using cross-cutting during two key segments, the filmmaker amps up the suspense and wrings so much tension from those situations that it seems to drip from the screen. A Quiet Place Part II is all about hiding, seeking, hunting, killing, and running. It’s as worthy an extension of the first film as one can imagine and its existence does nothing to diminish A Quiet Place. Considering what has happened to too many movies gifted with unnecessary follow-ups, that’s an accomplishment in its own right.
A Quiet Place Part II opens by turning back the clock to “Day 1.” In the original movie, we learned from newspaper clips how the alien invasion started. During the first 15 minutes of Part II, we see it play out. This also allows Krasinski to revisit the role of Lee Abbott. Emily Blunt, Millicent Simmonds, and Noah Jupe return as Evelyn, Regan, and Marcus Abbott. Dean Woodward replaces his older brother Cade as Beau Abbott. And Cillian Murphy joins the cast as Emmett, a friend of the family. What starts out as an ordinary Saturday with the townspeople enjoying a little league baseball game turns into a horror show when fireballs streak groundward from high in the sky. Soon, the alien creatures (giant spider-like monstrosities of the sort the H.R. Giger might have imagined) are on the hunt. The race to safety is a white-knuckle affair as the orderly calm of a lazy morning devolves into chaos.
Then, with little fanfare, we’re back in the “present” (meaning a short time after the conclusion of the first movie). Evelyn’s foot remains bandaged (from her unfortunate encounter with a nail on the basement stairs) so we know it’s not long after. Beau and Lee are gone, having been dispatched in A Quiet Place, but her other children (including the newborn) are intact, although Marcus suffers a debilitating injury not long into the proceedings. A fire forces the Abbotts to abandon their fortified home and seek refuge with a reluctant Emmett, who has holed up in a disused warehouse/factory. Circumstances split the five survivors into three groups. Regan and Emmett go in search of the person (or people) responsible for the repeated playing of “Beyond the Sea” on the radio. Evelyn returns to town for medicine and more oxygen tanks. Marcus (who can’t walk) and the baby remain in hiding, with the former caring for the latter and trying to stay quiet.
Krasinski’s aesthetic for the sequel is similar to the one he employed for the original. He occasionally dials-in to Regan’s perspective by removing the audio track and allowing certain scenes to evolve in silence. Although there are a few more “close-ups” of the aliens, he avoids overexposing them. There are more jump-scares this time around but the movie doesn’t rely on them for its horror elements. And the story, limited though it may be, moves like a juggernaut, gaining momentum as it rolls downhill.
There are a few missteps. The character of Emmett, who fills the hole left by Lee’s death, is neither well-developed nor effectively realized. He seems too much like a character of convenience and the audience never develops the kind of bond with him that exists with the returning characters. Djimon Hounsou is criminally underused – his role is little more than an extended cameo. The welcome expansion of Millicent Simmonds’ part comes at the expense of Emily Blunt’s screen time. And poor Noah Jupe spends most of the movie trapped in an airtight bunker with a baby.
Krasinski was initially lukewarm to the idea of making a follow-up to A Quiet Place, which he had rightfully believed worked as a stand-alone. If there had to be a sequel, however, Krasinski was the one to shepherd it through the process. He knows the setting, the characters, and (most importantly) understands how to use the aliens to their best effect. A Quiet Place Part II is a solid second chapter but it’s hard to imagine taking this concept to a third film without falling into cliché and repetition. If the series ends here, it will be remembered as one of the best monster-horror tales of the early 21st century.
Quiet Place Part II, A (United States, 2020)
Cast: Emily Blunt, Millicent Simmonds, Noah Jupe, Cillian Murphy, Djimon Hounsou, Scoot McNairy, John Krasinski, Dean Woodward
Screenplay: John Krasinski
Cinematography: Polly Morgan
Music: Marco Beltrami
U.S. Distributor: Paramount Pictures
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