The first A Quiet Place has rightly been lauded by critics and fans alike. Writer/director John Krasinksi’s experiment with the horror genre showed an incredibly deft hand at using silence to create a strong sense of tension throughout the film’s running time. Outside of a reality breaking use of a nail, the film is solid from beginning to end and creates a universe that doesn’t feel the need to spell everything out for its audience. In interviews, Krasinski said the first film was meant to be a standalone film. So how does what could easily be a cash grab of a sequel fair? The short answer is pretty good.
Aside from a flashback to the day the creatures arrived, the film starts immediately after the events of the first film. As a result of the battle, the survivors of the Abbott family have to leave their home in search of safety elsewhere. After a run in with a neighbor, the family ends up finding itself split from each other on quests crucial to their survival (if not the survival of humanity).
There is a LOT that A Quiet Place II does right. Knowing that the creature’s actual origin isn’t that important, Krasinski didn’t feel the need to completely lay out where they came from in the flashback sequence. Instead, he decided to tell the story of how the town was caught off guard and took the opportunity to introduce us to neighbor Emmett (Cillian Murphy), who will figure in as a central part of the film’s plot later on. I can see why some might think the flashback is runtime filler or an unnecessarily long introduction to Emmett, but I think the 10 minute sequence fills out the universe nicely and establishes more who the Abbott family is.
The success of the first film no doubt had an influence on bringing in the likes of Djimon Honsou and Cillian Murphy to join the incredibly able Emily Blunt, but having actors of this caliber helps lend gravity and buying in to the story that Krasinski is telling. The fact that Millicent Simmonds and Noah Jupe are given half of the film’s heavy lifting shows a great deal of faith in these young actors, and they both prove to be more than up to the challenge. Both characters could have easily veered off into overacting territory, but their performances guided by Krasinski’s direction brought fully formed kids asked to do more than they have any business being asked to do.
The film’s creature effects are still solid and show up great in daylight. Obviously low light situations make it easier to hide a smaller VFX budget, but the monsters are on full display out in the light several times in the film. Their design makes them still intimidating when attacking in the light of day.
I really only have two problems with the film, but unfortunately they’re pretty big ones. Just like the first film’s use of a nail was infuriating because it betrayed the intelligence of the characters displayed up to that point, there’s a scene where a character outright acts like an idiot and gets themselves killed. I fully believe this character likely needed to be dispatched, but there were several opportunities to off the character and show the dangers involved without lowering their IQ.
The other big problem I have with the film is that Krasinski honestly just overplays his hand in building to the film’s conclusion. All of the family members end up having their situations get continually worse and worse to the point he pretty much painted himself into a corner. Either the film would dive headfirst into transgressive territory and make the audience feel awful, or there would be a happy ending. I’m fully aware of the the Rule of Three that would dictate that possibly only one character would meet and especially untimely and gruesome end, but I never quite got the feeling that would be a possibility. It was going to be all or nothing, and that’s a bit of a shame because the tension crested a ridge and completely dissipated for me after that point.
I do feel that if I’m going to criticize Krasinski for that, I need to point out some things that he absolutely did right and are why the film earns the high rating I’m giving it. When what I would imagine where wheelbarrows full of cash pulled up and drew him in to making a sequel, it would have been very easy to just take the template of the first film and give the audience more of what made the first film work. Instead of doing that, Krasinski took some big swings and changed up the formula drastically. Each family member’s journey involved stakes and personal consequences that made each part of the storyline compelling. In a post-apocalyptic film, the easiest trope to fall into is that “humans are the biggest monsters of all”. While that thought does make an appearance in the film, it’s more of an acknowledgement that not all parts of human nature are altruistic, but there is hope for us still. This is all to be applauded and encouraged as he continues to grow as a filmmaker.
The big question most folks will have is whether the first or second film is scarier. While I feel the first film was overall a masterclass in tension, I wouldn’t be surprised in the slightest if people find A Quiet Place Part II just as disturbing for different reasons. The second film involves what is hopefully a temporary dissolution of the Abbott family unit, which brings an entirely different isolation that will effect different people either way. If you decide to see this on the big screen, I’d highly recommend catching it at a Dolby Digital theater. The sound design is still great and demands a proper sound setup to experience properly. While I find the first film superior, I couldn’t blame anyone who find this second entry just as compelling.