I generally liked John Krasinski’s 2018 thriller, A Quiet Place, and appreciated it for its use of sound and silence to create fantastic big screen thrills, but it also felt like a very obvious high-concept premise where it was basically the same danger over and over again. Whenever someone accidentally makes a noise, they’ll be running for their life to prevent being ripped to shreds by the vociferous creatures from parts unknown.
A Quiet Place Part II was initially supposed to come out a year ago only to be one of the first movies delayed due to COVID. That extra time means more people are going to rewatch the first movie to be able to continue from where the last one left off, essentially a cliffhanger with Emily Blunt’s Evelyn Abbott and her three kids — Regan (Millicent Simmonds), Marcus (Noah Jupe), and their unnamed newborn brother — all holed up at the family farm having discovered a way to kill the killer creatures using Regan’s hearing aid device.
It’s common practice for sequels to be bigger and therefore presumably better, but in this case, it feels like Krasinski and his entire team are doubling down on what worked so well in the first movie while using those ideas to create even more tension and much bigger scares. In fact, every time the creatures attack in Part II, it is absolutely terrifying, because someone might be walking ever so quietly to avoid detection and then the slightest misstep leads to one or more of the creatures descending on whomever made that noise. The tension of whether someone might make a noise that proves lethal can be tasted.
A Quiet Place Part II acts more as a journey that separates the family with Regan seeking out an island that has a working radio station that could help them find more humans before she’s joined by Emmett, while Marcus and Evelyn deal with their own travails. A key plot device of the sequel is a large steel furnace in which various humans can hide and be undetectable and inaudible by the violent creatures. The catch is that there’s only so much air inside that furnace, which leads to an insanely climactic third act.
As impressive as Krasinski’s direction was on the first movie, his entire team does such brilliant and fantastic work in Part II, you might presume that they realized exactly what worked so well the first time but instead of replicating the formula, they pushed the envelope to find ways to put the characters through even tougher situations, all exacerbated by the presence of Evelyn’s newborn.
Fans of the first movie can safely assume that Emily Blunt was always going to be as good or better as she was in the first movie, but Simmonds really steps up to take more of the heavy dramatic lifting on her own soldiers. It’s been some time since I was as blown away by a performance by Cillian Murphy as I was watching him here, although I didn’t even realize it was him due to his atypical facial hair. (The movie has four makeup and hair department heads in total, and their work at grunging up all the men is of particular note.)
As far as the general look of the film, Production Designer Jess Gonchor had a lot more locations to find, create, dress and help to expand this post-invasion world. Even from the beginning as we see the town’s bustling Main Street and that grocery store from the beginning of the first movie before it was pillaged and destroyed, it’s hard not to be in awe. As the film progresses, we see even more locations including an island where seemingly everyone is safe from the marauding aliens.
Cinematographer Polly Morgan captures it all beautifully as before — this ASC nominee is a terrific find by Krasinski, and I’m sure she will be getting very busy once this film gets released. Editor Michael P. Shawver’s best work can be seen once the characters split up, and we’re cutting between each of the family members in different levels of danger. Supervising Stunt Coordinator Mike Gunther seems to have a lot more work on his plate for this one, too, due to the larger cast and ever more precarious situations.
Of course, the beasties look even more grotesque as they twist and bend and pour themselves from every dark corner, making you fear for the protagonists’ lives at every turn. Most of the credit for their effectiveness goes to VFX Supervisor Scott Farrar and Jason Snell’s ILM VFX team for the enhanced physicality and feral nature of the creatures in the sequel, especially when interacting with other objects like water, but one also needs to note how organically the CG is used to enhance the practical sets and locations.
Legendary composer Marco Beltrami, a two-time Oscar nominee himself, delivers a score for the sequel that matches the sonic intensity of the sound team’s work but also bolsters some of the film’s more emotional moments to maintain the necessary gravitas. (Note: I watched A Quiet Place Part II in a Dolby Theater and the sound was magnificent, so if you have that as an option, do take advantage of it.)
My only real complaint about A Quiet Place Part II is that once again, Krasinski ends the story abruptly and right at the point when the viewer is so hyped up by the tension and adrenaline they’re ready for even more. Never fear, there will be another A Quiet Place movie (to be directed by Jeff Nichols, no less), and we can only hope it’s as worthy a sequel and worth the wait as this one very obviously was.
By building upon the way the original movie transformed the simplest of premises into a groundbreaking horror film, A Quiet Place Part II manages to create something even more terrifying and unforgettable.
A Quiet Place Part II will be in theaters nationwide starting Friday, May 28.
All pictures courtesy Paramount Pictures.