With her husband slaughtered by the creatures, the widowed Evelyn Abbott (Emily Blunt) must now care for Regan, Emmet (Millicent Simmonds, Noah Jupe) and her newly born son. On the run from their previous sanctuary, they come across an old acquaintance named Emmet (Cillian Murphy), who reluctantly helps Regan on her quest of finding the key to fighting off these armored monsters.
Writer/director John Krasinski is the epidemy of finding success later in life. After co-starring and helming several episodes of the American edition of The Office, he jumped to directing films such as Brief Interviews With Hideous Men and The Hollar. But it was 2018’s A Quiet Place that thrust him into the spotlight with its minimalistic approach in storytelling, character development, world building, stress-inducing sound editing, and inventive creature design: something of which has never been pulled off since John Carpenter’s The Thing. It also challenged audiences on their theater etiquette in a time when every Marvel movie premiered with fans screaming so loudly they could wake up multiple galaxies:
Becoming a sleeper hit at the box-office, the highly anticipated sequel was announced with Krasinski returning for both filmmaking duties despite his character meeting a sacrificial fate. Ironically if not for COVID-19, this would’ve released alongside another anticipated survival horror sequel The Last of Us Part 2 (wouldn’t that have been an interesting comparison). Cut to a year later when the world is almost back to a new normal as theaters begin to play new releases. Studios are walking the fine line between streaming platforms and the box-office, with Godzilla vs Kong and Mortal Kombat proving that people still treat the theater as a second home. Now they have another reason to get comfortable in their reclining seats because this isn’t meant to be seen in broad daylight on a small screen, even if HDTV’s have more technological advances than IMAX.
While the fear of the unknown is gone, this still has the tension of a deadly species invading society. This is reinstated in a phenomenal flashback sequence that brings back the unique formula. From there, the use of long camera shots, silent communication, and other forms of visual storytelling go out of there way to expand upon the lore of this broken world. Not an easy task for a sequel based on a simplistic narrative, but our time in isolation gives this a new perspective that never would’ve taken shape had this not been delayed. Nothing is on screen unless it serves a purpose, including jump scares that know how to take advantage of the situation. Without the moments to breathe from all the chaos and develop the characters, the constant danger would become numb and routine. Some might see this as just a rehash of the first movie. Others might be put off by the emphasis on action over horror. But the lore is expanded and communicated with enough panic to give us a sense of progression, going beyond what the first film set in stone to make this setting more alive despite the rising body count.
At the center of all of this are these relatable characters dealing with the loss of family in their own ways. Through bringing the background to the foreground, so much of their backstories are told without a single word of dialogue as they struggle to find a purpose in life, trying to move past their grief to accomplish something for the good of humanity, even if there is none in sight. Emily Blunt sells the role of a widow struggling to raise three kids without her significant other. And unlike 2019’s Dumbo, the child actors are dedicated to creating a believable family chemistry: having private sibling conversations and trying to step outside their comfort zone when the worst comes to pass. Millicent Simmonds as the daughter gets more time to ease into a potential leading role for the future, working off of Cillian Murphy’s hesitation and anxiety as he attempts to follow along in her journey. In fact, this might as well be The Last of Us movie in how some scenes mimic the Joel and Ellie dynamic of keeping each other safe (Sorry HBOMax): watching out for each other when danger closes in, taking in the vast landscapes when the silence adds to the atmosphere, and confirming their faith in one another when reaching salvation.
Of course the monsters are also the stars emanating a sense of danger whenever a glass bottle hits the floor or when a movie goer munches on their popcorn too loudly. The movements alone are so unique in their nature that it could bring Richard Williams back from the dead. And though their weakness is already discovered, there is still so much to learn about their species when the lore reveals new facts on their behaviors and survival techniques. If grasping at straws, one scene has an out of character moment that adds no natural context to anything except to have one explosion in a film produced by Michael Bay. But since the child actors give as much of a convincing performance as the adults, that’s not too much of a gripe, especially since there has to be some conflict within the carefully written branching narratives this undertakes. The ending is also very abrupt in where it leaves the viewer for the now inevitable threequel, cutting off too soon before leaving us with where the next film will go. It might make some rethink their opinion on the first film’s ending afterwards.
A Quiet Place Part II lives up to its predecessor with an expansion of what was already a solid foundation of an original horror concept, even if the ending is too abrupt. The story knows how to utilize all filming techniques to telegraph its narrative, expand upon its world, and turn old tropes into new surprises. The cast from all age groups nail their performances alone and together with finesse and down to earth dedication. And while there’s a slightly bigger emphasis on action (a direction typically seen in horror game sequels), it doesn’t detract from the scares and stress the creatures generate. This is another win for theaters as they’re locked in a battle with streaming services for dominance in entertainment. If you liked the first movie, check out this second installment with the satisfaction that a follow-up can only be one percent inferior to its prequel and yet still engrossing. With that abrupt ending, this definitely needs a threequel that could possibly turn this into one of the best horror trilogies ever created: something you can only count with one hand. Here’s hoping the next installment doesn’t go down the Dead Space route of forsaking its foundation for a more “commercially appealing” structure that has since become the death of some of the best innovations in the horror genre.