A Quiet Place Part II Review: The Sequel Treads Carefully
If director John Krasinski had known A Quiet Place would earn a sequel, he probably wouldn’t have killed off its main character, as played by himself. Krasinski does return via flashback in A Quiet Place Part II, for scenes that offer a tantalizing glimpse at how the (presumed) alien monsters first took over the world. But the real purpose of this origin story is to retroactively insert a new character, Cillian Murphy’s Emmett, into the narrative. So that when he pops back up in the main timeline, he comes with a ready-made past.
Prologue aside, the sequel picks up almost immediately after part one, with the Abbott family’s house a wreck. Looking for more secure shelter, they follow a signal fire and find Emmett, who stays inside a giant soundproof safe. And in some obvious foreshadowing of what can go wrong, he carefully times the stints inside so that he reopens just before the air supply runs out.
Circumstances conspire to separate the family, as Regan (Millicent Simmonds) sets off on an important journey with Emmett in pursuit. Meanwhile, matriarch Evelyn (Emily Blunt) must maintain supplies for her now-injured eldest son Marcus (Noah Jupe), and the baby she decided to have in a world where any sound means instant death. Regardless of story events, the main reason for dividing the characters seems to be that Krasinski loves parallel action. Every time one group of characters gets in a monster-based predicament, the other does too, allowing the movie to cross-cut back and forth. Every once in a while this gets frustrating or confusing. But mostly it serves to amp both confrontations up.
The Abbotts figured out the monsters’ key weakness at the end of the first film. But that doesn’t offer much extra protection. Fighting back depends utterly upon possession of Regan’s cochlear device. And it still usually requires an additional gunshot to the exposed ears; one loud enough to potentially summon reinforcements. We get more monsters this time, and the fact that humans actually stand a (small) chance now adds to the tension. Unlike, say, the Xenomorphs of the Alien series, which stopped looking inherently scary long ago, these beasts thus far maintain their menace. Being fast and impenetrable helps.
It’s worth noting that this sequel doesn’t rehash a lot of the key backstory. So yes, it helps to see the first film. A casual viewer will figure out the monsters hunt by sound, but not necessarily how noise-sensitive they can get. Or that their hides previously proved indestructible to the military. Krasinski has clearly built this world with a lot of thought, but he’s not necessarily going to let the audience in on it. One particular new character would seem to require a lengthy backstory and explanation, but head-canon will have to create it for now. The Abbotts merely want to live another day, and Krasinksi never expands the plot beyond their immediate perspective. We know only what they know, and sometimes even less.
The story works almost literally like a Halloween haunted house. For much of the movie, a given audience surrogate walks slowly and carefully through a creepy environment, periodically triggering sudden loud noises and pop-out monsters. The Universal Studios Halloween Horror Nights attraction practically designs itself. Now, once the monster has well and truly popped out, a pretty decent action sequence often ensues. Or, as mentioned before, two at once, interspliced. There’s not a lot more to the movie, but there doesn’t need to be.
Though Murphy seems the more blatant substitute for Krasinski, it’s Simmonds who rises to the lead role. And she’s even better than before, embracing and evincing a whole new range of emotions. All while barely saying a word with either her voice or hands. After this, in a just world, Simmonds deserves to get many more roles that have nothing to do with her being deaf.
A Quiet Place Part II finished production well over a year ago, so any perceived thematic relevance seems coincidental. Yet a world where everyone has to stay inside, not talking to strangers, mistrusting all the rest of “those people” out there, feels all too familiar. And the monster heads when they pop out all their sensors do indeed look like coronavirus particles. Last year, Love and Monsters offered a more escapist adventure about leaving quarantine to find friends and fight monsters. This is a much simpler nerve-shaker, and might have worked better as an October release. Are audiences ready for scares that inadvertently play this close to home? If so, they’ll get their money’s worth.
A lean, yet effective survival horror, A Quiet Place Part II may not merit many rewatches. But at least it does the job once.
A Quiet Place Part II opens in theaters May 28th.
Recommended Reading: A Quiet Place Screenplay