This past weekend, Your Intrepid Host saw A Quiet Place Part II in the theaters for its opening weekend. It was well worth the trip.
The first A Quiet Place (directed by, written by, and starring John Krasinski) is a modern classic and highly recommended by this blog. In the A Quiet Place world, Earth is beset upon by otherworldly monsters that are blind but incredibly sensitive to sound. The creatures are also covered in a skin that’s invulnerable to weapons. Naturally, humanity fell apart and became monster chow almost immediately.
One thing COVID did for post-apocalyptic movies: now that we know that people can’t even handle wearing a cloth mask or sitting at home to survive, any fictional premise of the demise of mankind seems far more reasonable.
Our story centers on the Abbott family. They strategically cultivated a functional, very quiet life on their isolated farm. The family had a slight survival advantage: their eldest daughter Regan (Millicent Simmonds) is deaf, and so the family is fluent in sign language.
In the sequel, we start mere minutes after we left off in the first film. The tranquil farm where the Abbots scratched out an existence is both in flames and partially flooded. Father Lee (John Krasinski) has died to save the kids. Mother Evelyn (Emily Blunt) has given birth roughly an hour ago and now has to carry the baby and the shotgun while shepherding kids Regan and Marcus (Noah Jupe) to safety.
In the last film, Lee had been working on restoring Regan’s cochlear implant. In the final act, Regan realized that Lee’s franken-implant can emit a frequency that makes the monsters’ vulnerable to attack, immobilizing them and painfully contracting their protective outer skin. As the remaining Abbots venture out into the wider world, Regan is armed with the implant and an amp as an effective weapon.
The stakes continue to accelerate in the sequel. Our central family has lost what little they already had, and their struggle to survive is even more desperate. But the seed of hope from the first movie, that there may be a way to defeat the monsters, is given more emphasis. It’s not just about saving the family anymore—it’s about reconnecting to and possibly saving humanity.
While John Krasinski did a great job in the first film, he’s now taken advantage of his absence in front of the camera to dedicate more script and direction to the rest of a great cast. Millicent Simmonds was a standout performance before, and now is a full-on hero. In turn, Emily Blunt gets to be an in-charge badass mom (in the last film, her tasks centered around doing laundry, making dinner, and being pregnant). Noah Jupe as Marcus seems cursed to be the Damsel in Distress of the series, but the kid gets good scenes and is really good at being in distress.
Cillian Murphy joins the cast as a surviving neighbor, Emmett. In this role, he has the tricky job of being Dad-But-Not-Dad. That’s what happens if a script paints itself into a corner by making a Strong Male central to the family’s survival, then kills him off, and then makes a sequel. But Emmett’s character is distinctive and enjoyable aside from being a convenient “guy who can do stuff.” An attached complication is that Emmett doesn’t know sign language. Thus, our survival unit loses the advantage of fully silent communication.
The A Quiet Place series continues its standout traits. In the first film, Krasinski displayed a masterful use of color on a post-apocalyptic farm (I would almost call it a dystopia-meets-cottagecore aesthetic). In the second film, he expands that color to the rest of the world where things are far more tragic and much less Pinterest-y. We trek through sunlit, destroyed train stations littered with abandoned pastel heels. Derelict blue boats rock in grungy harbors.
Many scenes mirror each other from the first film, but it strikes a chord of symmetry rather than lazy repetition. Rather, effective storytelling and tension tools that worked before are used just as effectively again. Chekhov’s Nail On The Stairs is replaced by Chekhov’s Latch That Could Easily Slip (more tense than it sounds, I promise). There is a moment where Krasinski shows his hand too much, wherein a literal ticking clock is introduced.
Now that there’s a way to defeat the monsters rather than just avoid them, we get more action. One fantastic sequence features Emmett battling monsters and other humans on water. We also kick off with a gripping sequence showing the chaos when the monsters first landed.
The film is so well done, on its own and as a sequel, that it could be our generation’s Aliens. It’s not on par with the greatness that is Aliens. But this is a sequel that meets or exceeds the already outstanding original film and excellently broadens its concept and tricks.
As per our last post on returning to horror movies at the cinema, A Quiet Place Part II is best seen in the theater. A central feature is its soundless sequences, used to capture the quiet world and Regan’s perspective. A theater blocks out external noise so that those scenes can be experienced as intended—it’s a harder effect to pull off in your living room.
That said, I was annoyed that in a clip played before the film, John Krasinski thanked the audience for coming to the theater during a pandemic. He says that the audience understands the importance of seeing a film “together.” That’s not the best message to give now that theaters are making masks effectively optional. This particular almost-apocalypse made me much sympathetic to our film’s heroes who want to save humanity but also violently avoid other people.
A Quiet Place Part II is now in theaters if you are so inclined and think you could enjoy it safely. It’ll also be on Video On Demand starting July 12.
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