★★★★ out of ★★★★★
A worthy sequel to the science-fiction horror modern classic. A Quiet Place Part II is very much an extension of the first movie. It feels like one continuous story. Intense, expertly crafted, and wonderfully acted, this movie doesn’t break a lot of new ground but it builds upon what the original did so well. It’s a first-rate thrill ride!
Directed by John Krasinski
The theaters are being saved by genre films. The first major breakthrough in the post vaccinated world was Godzilla vs. Kong, a fun and popcorn fueled battle of leviathans, and it performed admirably, opening with a $31 million domestic box office, and riding that all the way to $436 million worldwide. Not bad, particularly for being at the tail end of the pandemic and having HBO Max running the movie concurrently. But that felt more like a cathartic release from prison, but people thrilled at the spectacle and shrugged off the paper thin human plot.
A Quiet Place II had more to live up to. The original was a huge revelation, and was a gateway film that knew exactly how to supply tension and deliver big shocks even for a PG-13 audience. It validated John Krasinski as a leading director of note, it elevated Emily Blunt to A-List status, and introduced the world to the remarkable talents of Noah Jupe and particularly Millicent Simmonds. I had many people, including my own Scariest Things colleagues who were dubious about this film living up to its own standard.
Duplicate that feat. Not so easy, right? But Krasinski has succeeded.
After one weekend of play in the theaters, even with many theaters still in a quarantine mode with spaced seating, the film hauled in a tidy sum of $58 million after the Memorial Day weekend. Cruella, the Disney villainess movie also debuted well this weekend, and Hollywood must feel like they are coming out of the end of the tunnel. Though the Scariest Things likes to heap praise and encourage our viewers and listeners to see independent horror films, there can be no doubt that when a big anticipated horror movie succeeds both commercially and artistically, it bodes really well for fans of the genre.
So, how did he do it?
Krasinski succeeded by making the sequel dovetail in to right where the first movie stopped, with a thrilling flashback interlude to start the movie off that states ominously “Day 1.” The arrival of the aliens is heart-stopping, and you get a good sense of that from the trailers. Right away, the movie reminds you of the amount of pulse pounding fear of the situation, even if you already know the premise. He won by not trying to over think things. It’s clear that he had more of the original story to tell, and this really felt like it is a contiguous flow of the same idea, and when the idea is sound to begin with, you’re in a good spot.
There are loving nods back to some of the first movie’s signature moments. You get to see the fateful toy space shuttle in the convenience store. That damned nail on the staircase is still there. (Nobody bothered to go back and pull it out… the didn’t have enough time.) And the makeshift shrine to little Beau is still on the bridge.
But the point of this story is: Move On. Evelyn Abbott (Blunt) salvages what she can from the burning homestead and takes Regan (Simmonds), Marcus (Jupe), and the newborn baby to head East and find shelter. Not only is the wilderness filled with sonically sensitive murder monsters, but there is serious concern that the rest of the survivors in the world have let anarchy get the best of them, and have turned good people hard and callous. Anyone familiar with zombie-pocalypse tropes will recognize this feel.
The family stumbles into a decaying factory. It’s amazing how fast these facilities have become instant ruins in so short a period of time. The factory is rigged with traps, as one of Abbott’s friendly neighbors, Emmett (Cillian Murphy), who we meet in the opening flashback, is now the lone survivor holing up in this hiding place. Murphy was an excellent casting decision for this film.
The veteran is equally comfortable playing the protagonist (28 Days Later, Sunshine ) and the antagonist (Red Eye, Batman Begins) so the character is ambiguous, and the most interesting dynamics in the films are the interactions between Emmett and the Abbotts. Both have been put through the wringer, neither trusting each other. The difference is the dramatic irony has allowed us to follow the Abbotts and we know they are good people. Is he? Hats off to the Irish actor for pulling off a suitable Appalachian mumble. Also, he is quite the natural in fast monster apocalypse scenarios, as this film has a lot of the feels and pace of the movie that made him a star, 28 Days Later, which is rather high praise.
Krasinski knows how to amplify tension. You feel the squeeze continuously, and given some fairly miserable circumstances, everyone is in jeopardy for almost the entire film. One of the tropes that forces this tension is the old chestnut: Split up the party. It’s earned. It makes sense. But by splintering the group, everyone is caught in their own predicaments. You stay here, I’ve got a plan that only I can see through! For that, I felt that story was a bit more manipulative than the AQP I.
Still, it plays to the characters. Regan is headstrong, brave, and over her skis. Evelyn is the momma bear caretaker. Marcus is the nervous one, and the one most prone to forgetting something. They are all brave, but now, beset by injuries, (my film companion, Bree, appreciated that Evelyn still has a “baby birth waddle” and is still suffering from her nail injury from the first movie), a baby prone to being a baby, and a PTSD neighbor who they aren’t sure is entirely trustworthy. All solid plot points to work off of.
The movie does allow you to feel some hope. A key thing for any apocalyptic road trip movie (Besides The Road) is the journey in pursuit of hope, as a counterbalance to all the death and destruction.
Since this has proven to be a financial hit (again) be ready for another A Quiet Place, which is already in discussion at Paramount. How long can this goose deliver golden eggs? Do we want to switch things up, or continue following the plight of the Abbotts? I’m guessing that the studio will take the conservative route and do the latter. If Krasinksi wants to continue the story, he’s earned the right to, at this point. It was noticeable that the kids were bigger and more mature this time, particularly Noah Jupe. But it would have made no sense to change up the cast, as they were a Swiss watch of an acting troupe. Perfect timing, and great chemistry. Why change up on a good thing? Just roll with it.
A couple of minor quibbles. Sprinklers won’t work in long abandoned buildings. They require water pressure, and when your infrastructure goes down, the pumps stop… ergo… no sprinklers. That’s the architect nitpicker in me coming through, but that always annoys me. Also, we do get to meet a group of survivors who have managed to avoid much of the horror unscathed… and though it makes sense, they seem woefully prepared for this apocalypse. None of that, however deterred me from enjoying the film.
A Quiet Place Part II is rated PG-13 for intensity and violence. There isn’t much objectionable in this film, but I would make sure that young children have the stomach for intense stress in their movie going experience. The beauty of this franchise is the consistent application of dramatic pressure, and it does it far better than most R-rated movies that you will see. This is a thrill ride.
I’m going to say it. At the moment, this franchise is in far better shape than the Alien franchise. I think that these two movies can stand shoulder to shoulder with the first two Alien movies for intensity, acting, effects, and emotional drama.
A Quiet Place II is in wide release worldwide.