A lot of people were caught off-guard by 2018’s terrific “A Quiet Place”. Director, co-writer, and star John Krasinski not only put together one of the best horror movies in recent years, but he made a touching family story that really hit this father-of-two right in the feels. The modestly budgeted chiller was both a hit with critics and a box office smash for Paramount. And while a sequel wasn’t originally planned, the first film’s success eventually led to Krasinski putting ideas together for a follow-up. Soon he was hired to both write and direct the film.
“A Quiet Place Part II” is a sequel in the literal sense but it’s more of a direct continuation of the first film. It takes no time for Krasinski to pull his audience right back into his tense and terrifying world. And while it lacks the intimacy of its predecessor, the story’s chief focus remains on the tight-knit Abbott family. Emily Blunt returns as Evelyn who’s still reeling from the death of her husband Lee (Krasinski’s character) yet is determined to protect her kids at any cost. Millicent Simmonds is back as Evelyn’s deaf daughter Regan and Noah Jupe reprises his role as her son Marcus.
The film opens with a fantastic flashback sequence showing the day that the blind but hyper-sound-sensitive alien creatures first arrived and began savagely attacking humanity. Krasinski wisely doesn’t get bogged down in the details, instead showing the chaos that follows from the terrified Abbott family’s perspective. The sequence makes for a perfect reintroduction to the characters. And the impeccable mix of camerawork, sound design, and editing create the kind of nail-biting tension that will run throughout the film’s taut 97-minute runtime.
After the title card we move ahead 474 days to the scene that ended the first film. Evelyn, the resilient Regan, the timid younger Marcus, and newborn baby leave their farm after taking out the creatures who killed the family’s patriarch Lee. With the house in shambles the remaining Abbotts are forced to relocate, hoping to find other survivors who can take them in. After several miles of walking they run into an old friend of Lee’s named Emmett (Cillian Murphy) who’s holed up in a rusted-out steel mill. Emmett isn’t keen to help them at first, having lost his own family and essentially given up hope. He’s a tragic character and a nice fit with the story.
One of the things I love most is that Lee’s death hasn’t been forgotten. In fact it’s woven into much of this film. It’s seen most in Regan who becomes more and more like her father as the story progresses. She has his smarts, stubbornness, and ingenuity. It’s how she learned that pairing her cochlear implant with a portable guitar amp can emit a high-frequency screech that hurts the creatures. And it’s what drives her (against her mother’s wishes) to venture off on her own to try and reach the source of a radio signal that she can use to broadcast the screech to other survivors. Simmonds is a star, deaf from birth but using her impairment as a strength. She’s very much a co-lead, full of grit and determination. It’s such a good performance.
For the most part the action plays out on two fronts (and for a brief time three). Evelyn stays at the steel mill to protect Marcus and the baby while Emmett is convinced to go out and find Regan who is on her own in a perilous world filled with dangers of both the alien and human kind. A couple of cheap jump scares aside, Krasinski’s smart and effective ‘less-is-more’ approach allows us to watch, anticipate, and experience ourselves. And clever touches such as utilizing silence to unsettle his audience is a big reason why Krasinski can still wring a steady stream of edge-of-your-seat suspense out of his simple yet gripping premise.
Where the first film left the door open for a potential sequel, this film all but confirms there will be a third installment. Its abrupt ending leaves several glaring questions. It’s hardly a graceful finish and one of the only places where Krasinski doesn’t quite hit his mark. And as he broadens his world inevitable questions pop up, mostly about the creatures. One way he gets around it is by always seeing things from the family’s perspective. As their knowledge is limited, so is ours. But the former star of “The Office“ and real-life husband to Emily Blunt puts his money on the audience being onboard and along for the ride. And when that ride is this thrilling and the characters this appealing, those aforementioned questions become less and less significant. “A Quiet Place Part II” opens today (May 28th) in theaters.