‘A Quiet Place’ Sequel Still Knows When To Get Loud (Movie Review)

Over a year since A Quiet Place Part II was originally scheduled to release, Paramount hopes enough of us are vaccinated and ready to return to the multiplex to embrace a story concerning a global disaster that keeps its survivors afraid to venture outside. Still, scary movies are the kind of entertainment that can definitely fare better with a crowd (even if the venue is only at 25% capacity). Returning writer/director John Krasinski has delivered the kind of bare-knuckled sequel any fan of the 2018 original starring Emily Blunt would want, mostly. With other returning members of the cast and new addition Cillian Murphy, is this the movie to christen one’s return to a darkened theater, albeit with masks and other safety protocols? Overall, I think so. Besides, if someone breaks the rules, just grab a cochlear implant and turn up your portable speaker to ward them off, amirite?

An intriguing “DAY 1” opening sets up a clever way to have Krasinski’s Lee make an appearance, given his demise at the end of the original film. On a sunny day in Anywhere, U.S.A., the Abbott family are gathered to support their son, Marcus (Noah Jupe), at his little league game. We all know what’s coming, but filmmaker Krasinski has fun here. We like the Abbott’s, so knowing they’re about to get hit with War of the Worlds-style carnage is a no-brainer way to get us involved as we anticipate just how the ensuing chaos will occur.

Meanwhile, Marcus steps to the plate with full ASL support from mama, Evelyn (Blunt). Papa Lee (Krasinski) is picking up groceries but apparently, doesn’t need to pay at the moment because #SmallTownLife. All this sweet bonding is about to go full-blown The Last of Us, as the town is quickly ravaged by the shrieking, powerful aliens we are already familiar with. Violence erupts, explosions happen, and from the POV of Reagan (the film’s MVP and actual deaf actress, Millicent Simmonds), it’s all a thunderous muffled booming. I can nitpick about preferring the devastating loss in Naughty Dog’s seminal 2013 work (or the sound design of Spielberg’s War of the Worlds), but this is an effective way to get us back to the world of A Quiet Place.

We then fast forward to “DAY 474,” the day following Lee’s exit, with Evelyn now caring for her newborn baby and two kids. In need of new shelter and supplies, the remaining Abbotts make their way into a seemingly abandoned factory, only for Marcus to step into a bear trap (poor slugger). Remember, in this world, most are barefoot to not attract attention, so a) there is no protection for his foot, and b) his scream of pain will likely fill your theater in the most piercing way possible. It’s sad, scary, and a feeling of hopelessness envelopes. Evelyn can try to calm her son down, but clearly, something terrible has heard them…

I’m gonna stop there as far as plot details. This is a film that flies by despite long pauses of silence. The structure here is simple but still works. We know these people, their strengths and weaknesses, and each location offers different challenges beyond “don’t get killed by that crazy CGI monster.” It should be noted that while the monster design is the same, the FX work is much better in the sequel at making each creature have more weight. The way they fly towards the screen or rip thru a steel door is nearly perfect in rendering. I rationally know it’s fake but tell that to the feeling in the pit of my stomach.

Throughout Part II, Blunt takes a back seat to Simmonds and Murphy. Simmonds was the standout in Part I. The character of Regan is compelling, and now she’s becoming an even more effective, smart young person. Some of this is the unique perspective on her environments that come with a hearing-impaired character, but Simmonds’ eyes say so much about how she figures stuff out. She’s still a kid, so even though she has her cochlear “power,” raising a shotgun or outrunning these monstrous threats is no less stress-inducing.

Cillian Murphy plays Emmett, a friend of the Abbott’s from before the world’s end. He has predictably suffered an immense loss. Murphy and Simmonds make a great team. He’s not exactly the surrogate father to Regan like Joel was to Ellie in The Last of Us, but there’s definitely an “I don’t wanna protect this kid” to “I gotta have her back” arc at work here, which pays off.

As a sequel, Part II avoids one of the biggest missteps that far too many horror follow-ups make. Namely, trying to overexplain. Unless I missed something, I pretty much know nothing more about these audio-sensitive creatures from another world, as I did in Part I. That’s a good thing. If there’s a Part III, then maybe that’s the time to dole out a few bits of information. For now, they remain terrifying.

Having said that, I do sometimes wonder if, as horror fans, we assume too much, give too much leeway with zero motivations to these beings. We all know zombies have a hunger for flesh. Vampires love the blood. But what exactly is the plan or need of these large-mouthed things? If we assume they came to earth for food, okay. Still, it sure seems like the human population has gone down dramatically as we approach “Day 500,” so are these just the stragglers who got left behind while the rest of them got back on their ships and headed towards another planet to conquer? Or, are they not eating us? If that’s the case, why exactly do they want us dead? I know it’s an overthink, but the “because monsters” vibe only goes so far. Just my two cents, as this doesn’t affect how tense the film is to watch.

My only other caveat is that it’s really short. The big ending happened, and while it’s a great balance of two set-pieces happening simultaneously, it felt really abrupt when the credits started to roll. It is similar to Part I in that regard, but without spoiling what happens, there are definitely plot threads left unresolved. If this is just a middle chapter, then it’s fine, but you’ll likely want to hit play on the next installment when all three are available to watch at home. For now, however, A Quiet Place Part II is exclusive to theaters, which is as it should be. This is meant to be seen and heard (and not heard) with a crowd.

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