The family that slays monsters together, stays together.
So manic, depressing and surreal was all of 2020 (especially the springtime when A Quiet Place Part II was meant to be released), that I forgot that the movie was even coming out! All the buildup and hype that accompanies a sequel to a well-received horror film was there, but was easily drowned out by news coverage of the rapidly-spreading Covid-19 that eventually the movie ended up disappearing from my memory. As the industry shut down and the majority of film shoots became scarce, I quickly wondered if (apart from a few notable holdovers), there would even be any movies of consequence to experience in 2020. It was an irrational fear, I know; but it definitely fit the kind of mental spiraling felt throughout most of last year. Now it’s a year later and writer/director John Krasinski’s A Quiet Place II has re-emerged and firmly planted itself in my memory as my first press screening in a theater since last March. While the title wouldn’t have been my initial choice as a return to the theatrical experience, in many ways, it was just the right one.
After an effective intro sequence which serves as a prelude to the events of the first movie, A Quiet Place Part II picks up where the first one left off. The hideous monsters who wreak havoc and mayhem when any kind of sound is triggered are still roaming the earth and Evelyn (Emily Blunt), along with her children Marcus (Noah Jupe) and Regan (Millicent Simmonds), are trying to survive. Deciding they can no longer remain in the home they made after the invasion began, they journey onwards, eventually encountering a former friend and neighbor named Emmett (Cillian Murphy), himself damaged by the loss of his own family at the hands of the monsters. After Emmett reluctantly takes them in, Regan discovers a signal on the radio which she determines may be the key to their escape to safety.
When A Quiet Place came out back in 2018, it was a marvel of a film; the kind of involving horror tale which blended emotion with true scares. The obvious question when it came to the sequel’s announcement was whether or not Krasinski would be able to replicate that unique blend which had connected with so many. The answer, simply, was yes. The writer/director brilliantly expands the world he created by showing us just how it came to be. There’s such tension in the film’s opening scenes when we see the world in which the Abbott’s existed and the horrors quickly coming their way. Seeing that world begin to fall apart (at first imperceptibly) before full chaos ensues is the most exhilarating way to start the movie and shows that this is a film which guarantees to be its own entity. While Krasinski does allow for some quieter (no pun intended) moments between characters, A Quiet Place Part II maintains the suspense through and through, particularly in two standout sequences where each of the main characters are simultaneously facing their own nail biting situations. During the interim, nary a sound is made as the sequel keeps that maddening quality of natural sound intact. All of it culminates in a finale which takes the suspense as far as it can, forcing us to question if survival is even possible, before giving the movie a truly deserving conclusion.
The first time I saw A Quiet Place, I was struck by just how much the familial bond played a part. This wasn’t just a horror movie featuring a likeable family; it was a film about a family. The scenes featuring the characters holding on to one another, both emotionally and for dear life, proved touching and meaningful in ways which were truly unexpected and served the film far greater than any scare ever could. The fear of course when it came to the sequel was the question of whether or not the same level of emotion could be captured once again, especially given the large absence of Lee (Krasinski). While the film does separate the family for long stretches at a time, the bond and shared will that defines them is still felt. This is especially true near the film’s end, which sees Marcus and Regan channel the strength and spirit of their late father as they both tackle monsters and further leave their childhoods behind. Emmett, meanwhile, can be counted on for some emotional beats himself as a broken man who has lost everything and is forced to find the strength to battle not only the creatures, but his own grief. As was the case the first time around, Krasinski has crafted a tale of genuine horror which is just as much about the people as it is about the scares.
It’s hard to find a cast more uniformly good and in sync with both the material and their characters than this one. Blunt effortlessly resumes her stunning portrayal of desperation and determination from the first movie while Jupe and Simmonds turn in performances well beyond their years, cementing their standings as two of the most accomplished young actors working today. Murphy easily acquits himself well with the tone and feel of the story and turns in some of his best work in some time. Meanwhile, Djimon Hounsou as a fellow survivor and Krasinski (reprising his role briefly in the opening’s flashback sequence) each prove a welcome presence.
As is usually the case with horror films, the first Quiet Place is undoubtedly the stronger entry. But this follow up is a gripping and solid continuation of that game changing film, balancing its own tension and tears in a way similar to the first one. There are no throwaway scenes or sequences here. All of the violence and jumps are well done and the human beats all ring true. Quite frankly, this is exactly the kind of captivating sequel fans of the first wanted and deserved. It’s interesting to watch this movie following the year that has just passed. Watching the opening minutes, which shows the characters’ lives as tranquil and peaceful, it’s hard not to feel dread for them knowing what they will soon experience as well as personal sorrow for what the real world lost in 2020. A Quiet Place Part II would have been a great film regardless of whatever true life events occurred in the lead up to its release. Yet as we continue to try and move towards a future that resembles the best parts of our past, it can’t help but feel more powerful than it was ever intended to be.