A film review by Craig J. Koban July 19, 2021

A QUIET PLACE: PART II jjj
       

2021, PG-13, 97 mins.

Emily Blunt as Evelyn Abbott  /  Cillian Murphy as Emmett  /  Millicent Simmonds as Regan Abbott  /  Noah Jupe as Marcus Abbott  /  Wayne Duvall as Roger  /  John Krasinski as Lee Abbott

Written and directed by John Krasinski
 

 

 

The original A QUIET PLACE was not only one of the most masterfully executed high concept horror thrillers of recent memory, but it also was one of the most memorable filmgoing experiences of my adult life.  

It's highly ironic, then, that this 2018 John Krasinski directed affair did the unthinkable and unattainable of teaching audiences to keep their collective mouths shut while watching it in a cinema...but then its inevitable sequel was essentially silenced and put on hold by the shuttering of cinemas worldwide during the early stages of a global pandemic. 

It's easy to forget how micro budgeted A QUIET PLACE PART I was (just under $20 million, and it went on to gross nearly $350 million worldwide, making it a bona fide cinematic happening for its time), not to mention how staggeringly effective it was as a pure exercise in nerve wracking terror.  Most importantly, though, I screened that film in a packed cinema on day one and it was and still is the only screening that I've attended that had a capacity audience remain virtually silent throughout it's running time.  In an era where movie manners and etiquette have hit all time lows, this film was indeed an ultra rare and special commodity.  

The brilliant post apocalyptic premise contained within forced viewers to actively engage in the events of the story, living vicariously through the damaged characters that were forced to remain hush-hush in order to survive the murderous attacks of salivating and mankind hungry extraterrestrial invaders (silence was humanity's only defense).  A QUIET PLACE: PART II was a complete foregone conclusion based on its predecessor's financial success, and, to be fair, it most certainly doesn't have the first installment's groundbreaking, lightning in a bottle aesthetic freshness of approach.  Having said that, Krasinski (returning again behind the camera) has nevertheless made a sensationally engineered, thanklessly tight, and pulse poundingly intense follow-up that does what great sequels should do in terms of expanding and enriching series mythology. 

The best analogy I can make in comparing A QUIET PLACE: PART I to PART II is that the latter is ALIENS to the former's ALIEN.  The franchise introductory chapter was all about crafting an undulating sensation of raw terror, whereas its sequel is heavier on action and spectacle while still maintaining that anxiety-inducing sense of dread.  In pure ROCKY II-esque fashion, A QUIET PLACE: PART II opens (sort of) precisely after the climax of its antecedent, but before that Krasinski segues back to "Day 1" of the alien beasties arriving on Earth via a fireball from space.  What's striking about this introductory scene is that it presents the world of the small town that Lee (Krasinski, making a cameo here), his wife in Evelyn (Krasinski's wife in Emily Blunt), and their kids in Marcus (Noah Jupp) and Regan (Millicent Simmonds) reside in with haunting normalcy.  It's a bright, sun drenched summer day and Lee is trying to pick up some supplies at the local store before making it to his son's baseball game.  The most jarring thing on display here is simply the noise, all of which would have spelt doom for these characters in the last film: The crack of a bat, the roaring cheers of the crowd, and screaming players on the bench, and so forth.  Then the H.G. Giger's inspired creatures from the cosmos arrive without warning and start carving their way through the shocked townsfolk, none of whom know how to defend themselves from this menace.  It's simply one of the finest and most chilling openings to a horror sequel that I've seen.   

 

 

From here we then flashforward to the "present" and just after the severely foot injured and recently child birthing Evelyn euphorically cocked her shotgun to take out one of the disgusting E.T.s (with an assist from her hearing impaired daughter in Regan, who discovered a key weakness in the aliens via her cochlear implant) that (spoiler alert) just murdered her husband. With the newfound power in the knowledge of what can take these insect-like critters down, Evelyn gathers her newborn and what remains of her kids in Regan and Marcus and they depart out of their devastated family farm and look for help on the outside world.  They find refuge in an old town acquaintance in Emmett (Cillian Murphy), who's all alone after suffering huge family losses and is now living in an abandoned factory.  Cruel fate and circumstance splits these survivors up, with Emmett and Regan going out to search for the source of a recently found radio signal (Regan has a plan to ingenuously hijack and weaponize it) and Evelyn venturing out on her own for supplies, leaving Marcus (who - in a disturbingly cruel twist of fate - has horrifically injured his foot and leg like his mother before him, and is now called upon to look after his new baby brother).  

Let's just say that all of them fail to stay quiet. 

If there were to be a minor, nitpicky criticism that I have of A QUIET PLACE: PART II it would be that it doesn't altogether sway from the traumatizing hide and seek games between the humans and the aliens from the first outing.  If anything, Krasinski is playing into his series comfort zone wheelhouse, leading to a sense of familiarity to the proceedings this go around.  Still, I would defend that by saying that more of a great thing is most definitely not a bad thing here, and Krasinski, to his esteemed credit, shows why his bravura and assured direction in his rookie effort was no mere one-time fluke.  Like PART I, this new film contains a bounty of meticulously well rendered life and death moments of panic-laced suspense, and the sophomore director knows precisely how to drum up nightmarishly unendurable unease at times in the build up to the moments when these characters have to come face to face with the alien enemy.  Both A QUIET PLACE entries are able to foster Hitchcockian levels of sheer tension in the most modest of ways.  Walking through a field...or a train car...or a station...or a peer...is rife with the constant danger that these monsters can be unleashed when provoked with the most minute of sounds.  Even the strong stomached veteran filmgoer in yours truly watched a lot of this sequel through my fingers. 

There is an argument to be made that A QUIET PLACE: PART II is maybe too wall-to-wall action for its own good and that all of the VFX, sound and fury that are on display this time is a bit counterproductive to the first film's end game.  That, and many of the crafty characters make the same tired and cardinal blunders that oh-so-many other horror movie characters have made in the past (like, for example, not staying safe and put and instead venturing off on your own and leaving oneself completely vulnerable to the elements).  But the sheer craftsmanship on display here is so damn good that you want to forgive Krasinski's over indulgences with an increased budget (he had nearly triple the funds this go around, and it assuredly shows here in the final product).  It's kind of amazing just how economical this sequel is on multiple levels.  Like what came before, A QUIET PLACE: PART II is lean and mean with its running time and has trimmed all of the unnecessary fat off of its bones (at barely over 90 minutes, it tells a lot of story and expands upon the lore during that time).  Perhaps more brilliant is the astounding cross cutting editing on display by Krasinski and his team during the final act, which fluidly intercuts between two sets of teamed-up characters very far apart and relays their shared trauma of being attacked by these creatures.  The manner with which Krasinski ebbs and flows between these two subplots and their respective and key players is efficiently coordinated and mesmerizing to behold.  And by the time this sequel reached its conclusion I was absolutely wanting to see an additional part moving forward, something I can't say about the cookie cutter horror genre assembly line that permeates the industry as of late. 

Krasinski once again shows what an adept actors-director he is, and the performance ensemble is as good as it gets here.  Emily Blunt's Evelyn is somewhat saddled with a less intriguing character arc this go around (she's in pure action heroine mode this time more than ever), but she's so emotionally committed that the thought of a lesser actress in the role is hard to ponder.  As for the other adult characters, I liked Cillian Murphy's addition in the story, and he's certainly no stranger to post-apocalyptic horror (remember 28 DAYS LATER, anyone?).  His emotionally and physically battle ravaged small town bloke that has nearly given up on life and survival is given a new lease on it with the appearance of  Evelyn and her family in dire need.  The real standout here - as was the case before - is the Oscar worthy turn by young Millicent Simmonds, who shows a level of adolescent strength, determination, intelligence and courage that's frankly not afforded to young characters in movies these days, and she's able to command and carve out a sizeable screen presence playing off of the veteran in Murphy.  Plus, how inspiring is it to have a young female disabled character (played by a disabled girl) that's elevated to hero/savior level status in a sci-fi horror franchise?  One of the core messages I was left with from A QUIET PLACE: PART I was that sometimes children don't need to be protected as much as they need to be made to feel that they can fend for themselves.  No more is this apparent than with Regan in PART II; she becomes an empowered leader that tries to lead the charge to taking the battle straight to the monsters.  Everyone around her wants to be on the defensive, but she wants to take the offensive.  Now that's gutsy. 

A QUIET PLACE: PART II is not just a sequel, but an equal, in my estimation, to the last film, and as far as horror sequels go this might be the most exemplarily realized that I've experienced.  The film honors and respects what came and worked before and harnesses that, but it also manages to successfully amplify the tormenting of audiences to paralyzing effect.  In many ways and now watching them back to back in unison, both A QUIET PLACE films make for one grand and expertly realized three-hour horror epic that - despite its ghastly freak show carnage - never loses sight on its characters and the dramatically potent family dynamic that's the key that holds this series together and helps separate it apart from a very crowded pack.  Probably the worst fate that happened to this sequel was that the pandemic led to it becoming a theatrical release casualty (it was supposed to originally come out in March of 2020, before finally seeing the light of day in select cinemas this summer before hitting VOD shortly thereafter).  The first outing reminded us all of the power of the shared cinematic experience, and one that was far from dead.  This sequel coming out at a time when people are converging back together to experience the power of the movies again and as they were meant to be seen seems ultimately fitting. 

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