John Krasinski’s A Quiet Place Part II begins at “Day One,” where a small American town is suddenly invaded by massive, long bodied and vicious monsters, who quickly shrink the human population to a cluster of survivors. Because the monsters are attracted by noise, the survivors do all they can to never speak. The Abbott family, led by Lee and Evelyn (played by John Krasinski and Emily Blunt) struggle to protect their children (played by Millicent Simmonds and Noah Jupe), as well as a newborn whose cries threaten to give away their hideout to the always lurking presence outside.
Krasinki’s 2018 original was a real surprise, a near-perfect masterpiece, while Part II is a really good sequel. This is an exercise in dread and sustained tension, a cinematic mouse trap that gleefully “plays the audience like a piano” in the way that Alfred Hitchcock would have loved (or been envious of).
The opening sequence is a stunner, comparable to the jolting, normal-life-gone-chaotic introductory chapters of Steven Spielberg’s War of the Worlds (2005) and Marc Forster’s World War Z (2013). Numerous scenes where the monsters spring to attack in broad daylight are comparable in execution to similar moments from Bong Joon Ho’s 2006 thriller, The Host (still the champion of contemporary monster movies).
Not all the similarities to other films work, namely how the invading creatures, like those in M. Night Shyamalan’s Signs (2002), have a major weakness that seems implausible. Krasinki’s screenplay never over-explains the origins of the threat or the global scale of the attack on humankind, providing a you-are-there focus akin to Alfred Hitchcock’s The Birds (1963). Yet, it also doesn’t fully explore the central ideas it raises, namely how the remaining humans have become rotten, nomadic shells of their former selves. While the achievements of the first film have largely been recreated and the stakes have been raised for the story, I already felt overly familiar with the premise, which previously felt so novel.
Both A Quiet Place Part II and the original are very similar in story structure and how they build anticipation in multiple scenes that play over one another and drive the audience to gnaw at their fingernails. This is all professional and persuasively done, as well as helmed once again by a surprisingly confident and playful Krasinski. Nevertheless, as much as this works on a scene-to-scene basis, some of the initial thrill and surprise is gone.
At the very end, we haven’t learned anything new about the threat and the conclusion of both films suggest the same thing: despite overwhelming obstacles, there are ways to fight back against those who seek to control us.
The original offered the remarkable and terrifying sight of Evelyn giving birth in a tub, silently, while the monsters stalk nearby. Nothing here is quite as anxiety inducing or fresh, though the skillfully staged pre-title sequence comes close.
Emily Blunt is, once again, excellent, though the sequel belongs to Simmonds (superb in her reprisal as Evelyn’s daughter, Regan) and Cillian Murphy, who hasn’t had a major role in a mainstream American film this good in some time. Thanks to some narrative maneuvering with the timeline, Krasinski is able to appear in this as well (his character made a dramatic exit in the prior film) and he’s always a welcome presence.
The concentration and manipulation of the sound design is masterful, just as it was the first time, and the focus on character and how one must control their emotions (and noise levels) in extreme circumstances takes emphasis over spectacle. Krasinski concocts bigger scenarios and a larger scale, but this follow-up doesn’t betray what made the first film so effective. It also isn’t much more beyond a capable sequel, providing a bridge for a presumable third film. A Quiet Place was one of the best films of its year and a major genre achievement (as well as the rare film that made audiences willingly get in the spirit of the story and shut up). A Quiet Place Part II is mostly more of the same, though extremely well done, and impressive in its skill and sustained intensity. I welcome a third chapter but only if it’s the last one.