John Krasinski’s surprise hit A Quiet Place (2018) became an instant favourite for horror fans, thanks to its intriguing premise and earnest domestic drama. In a post-apocalyptic world where alien creatures have ravaged humanity due to their heightened sense of hearing, the Abbott family survive by existing as silently as possible on a soundproofed farm, communicating using ASL (American Sign Language).
Major spoilers for A Quiet Place below.
Despite the Abbott’s best efforts, the arrival of their newborn baby triggered a deadly attack that left father Lee Abbott (John Krasinski) dead and their home destroyed. So now, the remaining family members—mother Evelyn (Emily Blunt), son Marcus (Noah Jupe), and deaf daughter Regan (Millicent Simmonds)—must fend for themselves while meeting other survivors.
A Quiet Place was a suspenseful and entertaining outing despite its glaring blind spots (why on Earth would you choose that time and place to have a baby?), in part due its director and star John Krasinski. He’s always had a cosy likability to him, bolstered by his role as the sarcastic yet cuddly Jim Halpert in The Office (2005-2013). His performance in A Quiet Place certainly tied it together by providing a necessary tenderness that contrasted well against all the creature-feature horror.
This time around, Krasinski is mainly behind the camera and makes up for his absence by casting Cillian Murphy as a new male lead, Emmett. He’s also clearly sticking to the common belief that, when it comes to sequels, bigger is better. A Quiet Place Part II expands its world accordingly beyond the farm as the Abbotts are forced to explore unknown territory, crossing paths with less welcoming people.
Unfortunately, after a great opening flashback showing the start of the invasion, Krasinski’s vision isn’t as tight as his debut feature. The film’s split into two main storylines: one follows young Regan and former family friend Emmett as they look for survivors, and the other sees Evelyn seeking medical supplies for her baby and an injured Marcus. This causes A Quiet Place Part II to feel like two different movies, both of which lack the cohesiveness of its predecessor.
This becomes a big problem during the third act, where the story goes through the motions as quickly as possible to reach its conclusion. Djimon Hounsou (Shazam!) makes a brief and inconsequential appearance, as do a stereotypically sinister group of survivors who could’ve been plucked straight out of any post-apocalypse film. It simply isn’t as engaging as the original— which, for all its flaws, had a clear direction and storytelling focus.
Additionally, the film’s a mixed bag on a technical front. The sound design which switches between white noise and loud booms can be overbearing, hammering home jump-scares with the subtlety of a brick through a window. Cinematographer Polly Morgan doesn’t have a visual style as distinctive or lush as original DoP Charlotte Bruus Christensen, but her work is at least consistent with the first film’s presentation. Composer Marco Beltrami returns with a more bombastic soundtrack well-suited to the action, but it’s less experimental and eerie than his original score.
Furthermore, the creatures are on full display now and it’s a misstep to have them be so visible. A Quiet Place kept them more hidden from view which only added to the suspense, particularly when they took down bystanders in a frightening blur of motion.
Generally speaking, there’s something undeniably creepier about obscured shots of monsters. In only allowing brief glimpses, it’s an invitation for your imagination to go into overdrive. A great example of this would be the contrast between Alien (1979) and Aliens (1986); the former finding terror in its glimpses of the xenomorph, while the immediate sequel loses some fear factor in fully revealing the creatures.
Despite this, the monster VFX is unique enough to stand apart from many other extra-terrestrial designs. There are plenty of close-ups of the alien’s cavernous mouths and ears that are agreeably grotesque, and even with a stronger knowledge of their weaknesses they’re as deadly as ever.
What the film lacks in these areas is somewhat compensated for in its heartfelt portrayal of Regan and her determination to build a life beyond survival. Krasinski clearly understood that the relationship between Lee and his daughter was the emotional core of the first film, and explores it further through Regan’s new relationship with old neighbour Emmett.
Emmett’s own losses have hardened him to the point of coldness whilst Regan’s hopeful stubbornness often leads to reckless decision-making. Inevitably, their differences prove mutually beneficial. It doesn’t tread new ground, but Simmonds and Murphy play off each other well. Emmett works as a contrast to Lee rather than as a surrogate father figure for Regan; he’s cowardly and incurious where her father was brave and sought answers. It helps that Murphy is a better actor than Krasinski, too, making the pair’s relationship the most engaging part of the film.
It’s a shame this emotional development wasn’t given to Regan’s brother Marcus or her mother Evelyn. A Quiet Place memorably closed with Evelyn cocking a shotgun, suggesting she was stepping up as her family’s protector. Unfortunately, we don’t really see Emily Blunt being a fierce mama bear, nor do we see her doing much of anything. While Regan and Emmett are off exploring and fighting monsters, it feels like the rest of the family are a side distraction designed to fill in narrative gaps.
Noah does his best to become monster bait by making daft decisions, Evelyn wanders around for supplies in her slightly-grimy-but-still-pretty dress, and the baby exists solely to cause the occasional crisis. The lack of development with these characters isn’t only a waste of Blunt’s talent but of the story’s potential itself. For example, it could’ve been interesting to see how Evelyn may struggle with her newborn after losing both her husband and their youngest child Beau, as seen in the previous film.
However, this film’s biggest issue is that obstacles are introduced to provide tension before being quickly dropped, leaving the plot with more holes than a slice of Swiss cheese. The baby is perhaps the most obvious example: during the first film, the inevitability of the child crying provided a constant source of tension and anxiety. Now that the plot doesn’t require this as much, the baby is conveniently very quiet.
In addition, this sequel not only fails to address previously unanswered questions but adds more. The creatures don’t appear to eat humans… so if people aren’t a food source, why did they come to Earth? What happens if you’re a chronic snorer, sneeze, or pass gas loudly… do the Abbotts not have these bodily functions? How exactly is electricity still available? Anyone who’s a stickler for detail and consistent plot logic will likely be rolling their eyes.
Ultimately, A Quiet Place Part II is the kind of action-based horror that doesn’t demand much of its audience and aims to be a crowd-pleaser. It doesn’t get stronger than its excellent opening, and the plot holes keep piling up, but it’s an entertaining romp—greatly helped by Simmonds and Murphy’s central performances. Just don’t overthink it or chew the popcorn too loudly during the quiet parts.
USA | 2021 | 97 MINUTES | 2.39:1 | COLOUR | ENGLISH
Cast & Crew
director: John Krasinski.
writer: John Krasinski (based on characters created by Bryan Woods & Scott Beck).
starring: Emily Blunt, Cillian Murphy, Millicent Simmonds, Noah Jupe, Djimon Hounsou & John Krasinski.