Director: John Krasinski
Writer: John Krasinski
Cast: Emily Blunt, John Krasinski, Cillian Murphy, Millicent Simmonds, Noah Jupe
When A Quiet Place made its debut in 2018, it was something quite new for horror. The creatures attacking humans were rather terrifying, but the fear was exacerbated by the silence that gives the film its title. I am someone who has always said the more silent a horror movie is the more frightening it can/will be, and that’s because this is true of reality – we don’t have film scores following us around (unless you’ve constantly got your earphones in), so if you find yourself in a dark cave, the silence is only going to freak you out more. John Krasinski knew this and channelled it into one of the best horror movies this side of 2000. And now we have the follow up, a sequel that A Quiet Place fans have, ironically, been screaming for, and not to mention waited longer for than originally intended (thanks, Covid-19). Is it everything we’d hoped for, deserving of rapturous applause, or followed by a deafening silence that’s sure to be the death of any film?
**Please note, the following synopsis and review will contain spoilers for the previous film, A Quiet Place.**
Opening with a short flashback to the arrival of the apparently alien creatures that are blind but highly sensitive to sound, A Quiet Place Part II picks up immediately where the first film ended. Evelyn Abbott (Blunt) sets out with her three children to search for new digs/other survivors as their home is now uninhabitable, not to mention laden with the memory of her husband, Lee (Krasinski), who had sacrificed himself to save their children. They eventually come across Emmett (Murphy), an old friend of the family, who is surviving alone after the loss of his own family. He reluctantly allows Evelyn and her kids to stay. After previously discovering that the creatures become incapacitated when exposed to high-frequency feedback, daughter Regan (Simmonds) decides to set out on her own to find the source of a radio station signal that plays ‘Beyond the Sea’ on a loop, thinking she can use the signal to transmit the high-frequency sound further afield and weaponize it against the creatures. As Regan is deaf, this could prove to be a fatal undertaking – that is, unless Evelyn can convince Emmett to step in and help.
Part II doesn’t quite hold up to the same standards as its predecessor, to begin with a straight-to-it statement. Frankly, a sequel felt a little unnecessary – we kind of know what to expect with the mixture of still-not-so-original creatures and the silence needed to keep them at bay. Of course, there seems to be more at stake now – not only do we have the Abbott family to be concerned about, but also other new characters that are thrown into the mix. But something about opening up the world makes it a little less terrifying. In the first movie, Krasinski’s screenplay and direction kept everything close, from the camera angles and shots to the relationships between the characters. More or less everything happened within or surrounding the Abbotts’ home and events and emotions were kept within the family. The whole thing had a very intimate and claustrophobic feel, allowing the audience to connect easily with the characters and get a good sense of the fear. This isn’t quite so in the sequel. The familial bonds are a little more frayed after the loss of the Abbott patriarch, and something certainly feels missing with Lee gone, so the tone of the film has shifted somewhat from the tightness of the first.
At the very least, Part II stays true to its horror roots, meaning the dreaded silences are back and the edge-of-your-seat nervousness abounds. It feels like there’s more scoring to this film however, breaking the silences up more, and that’s probably because there’s more dialogue than the first film. The film’s biggest achievement, arguably, lies within the character development for Regan and Marcus. These two youngsters have had to grow up very quickly, Regan in particular, and shoulder more responsibility now their father is gone and they have a new-born brother. The relationship between the two also appears stronger, something that would be expected after their previous experience. Their mother has to focus on the baby, and so Regan and Marcus rely on each other more. It also says a lot about Krasinski’s instincts as a writer to put Regan in the role that may have once been fulfilled by her father. It says a lot about the bond between father and daughter, and it would be difficult to not draw parallels between Lee and Regan’s relationship and Krasinki’s relationship with his own daughters.
Following on from that, a lot of credit is due to Simmonds, who often steals the show as Regan. It’s wonderful to see that verbal dialogue is not always needed to convey emotion. Communicating through sign language (I assume ASL) along with physical cues is all that is needed, and Simmonds utilises both to create a performance that rivals her first. A similar thing could be said of Jupe, his character of Marcus going through a lot in this movie, perhaps more so than the first. Together they carry much of the film on their shoulders and they do a fantastic job of it. Part of that could be thanks to their familiarity with Blunt and Krasinski and the ease they feel performing with these adult actors, as it’s sometimes telling when child actors aren’t all that comfortable with their older co-stars. Blunt herself creates a strong and very human Evelyn, a mother risking everything for her children, but she takes more of a backseat in Part II, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Murphy creates the opposite of Lee with his character of Emmett, a guy who is something of an anti-hero. There’s nothing exceptional about the character, but he proves himself useful and adds some conflict to the situation.
Overall A Quiet Place Part II is a good watch, but it’s not wholly necessary. With a film like this we would expect to be given background on where the creatures came from or how they came to be – Krasinski gives us an idea but doesn’t expand on it. Whether that’s good or bad is down to each individual viewer and their imagination (or lack of), but it doesn’t add anything to the story. I would have expected to go further down that route, but instead Krasinski decided to focus on his humans, not his aliens, which is something out of the ordinary for a sequel like this. Perhaps that’s where Krasinski’s talent lies – in the extraordinary. He had a great idea with A Quiet Place and managed to expand the world and build on the characters for the sequel, but perhaps that’s now all we need. The rest is best left to the imagination.