I am sure I am not alone in my memory of viewing A Quiet Place in a packed theater when a neighboring filmgoer began unwrapping her Butterfinger and shamefully sunk in her seat after receiving judgemental glares from other stone-silent patrons. The fact that, in 2018, director/star John Krasinski was capable of actually shushing groups of modern moviegoers was a remarkable feat. It demonstrated how he effectively crafted sensory-deprived dread from his audience that almost felt like a novel concept. And though the theaters may not be as stuffed as before, he brings his cinematic index finger to his lips again with A Quiet Place: Part II.
Part of the appeal of the original was the fact that it was so pared-down in its storytelling. It left little room for bloated backstories or sequel setups and crafted a string of taut sequences into a rather innovative theater-going experience on a relatively small budget. That, of course, was $341 million ago.
A Quiet Place: Part II picks up right after the last, as the remaining members of the Abbott family navigate the world outside their now-fatherless home and soon realize there are more threats than just the sonic-sensitive aliens. As Krasinski only shows up momentarily for a Day 1 prelude, the majority of his time was as in the writer and director’s chairs. Instead of spotlighting his real-life wife and star Emily Blunt and giving her a Ripley moment, he hands the reins over to the younger stars, Millicent Simmonds as Regan and Noah Lupe as Marcus, giving them their learner’s permit to drive this sequel.
Upon leaving home, they head to the compound of neighbor Elliott (Cillian Murphy), who has also lost family members in the invasion. Despite having witnessed the family’s distress signals, Elliott has opted for a life of solitude and primitive survival. When they first enter Elliott’s lair, Krasinski balances the scenes with just the right amount of friend-or-foe interactions. For the first third, we are never quite sure as to his allegiance. He mentions other survivors he has encountered who have been “changed” by the invasion. When he and one of the family members embark on a reconnaissance mission, Krasinski does a solid job keeping us guessing just who will return.
“…members of the Abbott family navigate the world outside their now-fatherless home…”
Meanwhile, back in the compound, the remaining family members are faced with a slew of new challenges as they remain mindful of every step, hiccup, or belch. While the family is divided is when Krasinski demonstrates an assured hand and directing, showcasing parallel edits and matched cuts between the two groups.
A Quiet Place: Part II offers another round of impressively staged set pieces, a few cheap (but damn effective) “gotcha” jumpscares, and a heavier dose of those spindly, flower-headed aliens. Blunt continues to perfect her look of frozen fear throughout, and Lupe is given moments of far greater depth here that he handles with aplomb. But allowing young Simmonds to take the lead was perhaps one of the filmmaker’s best choices.
The young actress demonstrates an untapped inner resilience while still exhibiting teenage rebelliousness. The film’s audio also flickers to her perspective, shutting down all sound as chaos rains down around her. Simmonds commands her scenes through her expressive, natural emoting and holds her own next to the more experienced Murphy.
And, like the first one, A Quiet Place: Part II once again demonstrates the thrill that can be had out of watching a film in a theater in which the (smaller) audience is commanded to watch with rapt attention.
"…Simmons commands her scenes..."