Director: John Krasinski
Stars: Noah Jupe, Cillian Murphy, Millicent Simmonds
John Krasinski’s A Quiet Place was an unassuming hit. Nobody really expected much from him as a director, let alone a smash sci-hi horror with a wicked gimmick and a heartfelt crush for Spielberg. I remember when I saw the film in a capacity screening for the first time – along with, I’d assume, most of those present – and for all the renegade problems mass audiences can bring you, you could’ve heard a pin drop in there. Krasinski had something.
Now, delayed a little by COVID, his inevitable sequel lands, this time weighted a little by expectation, and the added twist of having to hold on for it that little bit longer. Though, true enough, the anticipation is counter-balanced by experience. We all know the rule of thumb with sequels.
It also arrives in a slightly different world. We’ve not all been through a terrifying alien invasion that’s irrevocable altered our patterns of survival and communication, but as we edge toward a post-pandemic society, elements of A Quiet Place Part II hit a little differently than they might have when they were being conceived.
Consider Emmett (Cillian Murphy); a new character in the mix, introduced via flashback to Day 1. When we encounter him again on Day 474 – Part II picks up the second that the first finished – he’s living in isolation out at a disused factory on the edges of the Appalachian hills. He’s suffered loss and, through experience, has come to distrust people. When the Abbott family crash into his fortified homestead while fleeing their farm, Emmett’s initial response is to reject them, to push them away. It takes time in the fellowship of others to re-establish the sense of values worth fighting for that he’s tended toward abandoning.
It’s a stretch to say that this mirrors how the most of us feel coming out of lockdown, but there’s something to be said for how Emmett’s knee-jerk response echoes with our sense of collective anxiety at the months ahead. I know I’m far less tolerant of noise and crowds than I ever was before. A Quiet Place Part II isn’t ‘A Film For Our Times’ but, like Emily Blunt’s Evelyn, is sort of accidentally trips into territory that sets off these bells and whistles.
For the most part this continuation of the story is about what you’d expect. Krasinski’s fondness for Spielberg’s suspense remains firmly intact. If anything, this movie steals more brazenly from Jurassic Park than its predecessor. A sequence in a radio station has heavy raptors-in-the-kitchen vibes. There’s also a good jolt of Cameron in here, too, particularly in a direct homage/rip-off from Terminator 2. Still, if you’re going to steal, going for the big hitters is, at the very least, ambitious.
The real star here is, as before, Millicent Simmonds as deaf daughter Regan. Following the events of film one, Regan seems keen to honor a particular family legacy, and her aspirations in this regard lead her to splinter off for an adventure of her own. From this point the film juggles a dual narrative approach. Perhaps wisely, its a little unevenly balanced, favouring Regan and her reluctant guardian Emmett. As a result, Evelyn and Marcus (Noah Jupe) are ever-so slightly sidelined back at base camp.
The approach works gangbusters at the culmination of the second act, when Krasinski mounts twin set pieces that bounce off of one another, both playing heavily on anxieties of asphyxiation. If anyone’s the hero of this sequence overall, its editor Michael P Shawver, who keeps us hopping nimbly from A to B and back again.
The third act piles in a few more contrivances and coincidences than feel wholly comfortable, but, at the same time, also opens up the universe of this developing series in ways that are quite tantalising. That’s a double-edged sword, however. While the new is always interesting, for the sake of pacing, it isn’t quite as fleshed out as one would have hoped.
Then there’s the way Krasinski chooses to end the film, aping the smash-to-credits high of film one. That was a great stroke the first time round, finishing on a triumphant emotional peak. Here it doesn’t work quite so well. We crave a little of the aftermath. Part II – perhaps quite intentionally – feels decidedly unfinished.
That’s because everyone likes a trilogy. While we’re not left on a cliffhanger (mercifully), we all know how Hollywood works and, especially, the legacy of the horror genre. Unless A Quiet Place II is an almighty bomb we’ll almost certainly see this story emerge from the bushes once again a few years down the line.
Until then, this is a robust sequel. Krasinski mounts a handsome post-apocalyptic production; keeps things pacey and pushing onward; would’ve been a great asset to The Walking Dead several seasons ago. There’s more dialogue than before due to new interactions to establish, but its still fairly minimal and as such the original music from Marco Beltrami should also be praised for picking up a lion’s share of the work. A Quiet Place II is a solid continuation. Not quite revelatory, and pocked with minor inconsistencies, but in the main it delivers for those hushed into stunned silence by the first film.