“A Quiet Place Part II” – Leading up to April 2018, how many moviegoers raised an eyebrow when learning that John Krasinski was directing and co-writing a major studio release about visually-impaired aliens with other-worldly hearing who wipe out most of civilization, and a surviving family of five – a mom, dad, two children, and an infant – lowered their tones and lightened their steps to dodge the aforementioned invaders?
This critic did.
Jim from “The Office” (2005 – 2013)? What does Krasinski know about horror films? What did he previously direct? “The Hollars” (2016), and he did star in “Something Borrowed” (2011), which was a scary rom-com, albeit unintentionally.
Well, thou (and I) judged too quickly, and see also Heath Ledger playing Joker in “The Dark Knight” (2008).
It turns out that Krasinski – along with his wife Emily Blunt, breakout star Millicent Simmonds, and Noah Jupe – delivered a modern-day science fiction-horror classic, a masterpiece, and our director channeled both Rod Serling and Alfred Hitchcock while terrifying millions into silence for 90 nerve-racking minutes.
To quote the late, great Patches O’Houlihan (Rip Torn), the Abbott family does not only have to dodge the extra-terrestrials, but “dive, dip, duck, and dodge” them as well. These (perhaps) 15-foot creatures resemble the comic book anti-hero Venom but with Usain Bolt’s closing speed and Leatherface’s psychopathic bloodlust. At times, these sicko, mammoth organisms make the Xenomorph XX121 from the “Alien” series look like an ordinary house cat hopped “down” on valium.
Well, not exactly, but you get the point.
The film made raucous noise at the box office and pulled 188 million dollars domestically and 340 big ones worldwide, but after watching “A Quiet Place Part II”, the only earthly reason to make this sequel is to capitalize on the massive commercial success of the first. That’s the business, obviously, but in doing so, the art is sacrificed. Again, that’s the business.
Now, this 97-minute direct extension from the brilliant original is a worthy follow-up, but to be frank, it’s not a film that needed to be made.
Krasinski directs and writes “Part II”, and he doesn’t raise a soulless, cheap clone. Rather than keep the contained setting, the movie expands its world outside of the Abbott home in Millbrook. Their town’s exact location is not entirely clear, but we discover that it’s west of the Appalachian Ridge. So, we’ll go with that. Actually, the cast and crew filmed in tiny Akron, NY, about 30 miles from Buffalo, but no Bills gear could be found on-screen, at least after one viewing.
The story picks up right after the events of the first picture, as Evelyn (Blunt), Regan (Simmonds), Marcus (Jupe), and an infant survived the immediate space invader threat, but not before Krasinski dreams up a clever opening 10 minutes.
He scribes a brilliant (pen) stroke that helps clarify the origins of the Abbotts’ and Millbrook’s nightmare. A little bit, anyway. However, for the vast majority of “Part II”, we’re starting at Day 474 since the invasion, but it may as well be Day 10,474. Exhaustion hampers the Abbotts’ strides, and sorrow fills their thoughts as they look for safety outside of their property.
The family connects with Emmett (Cillian Murphy), a family friend who suffered tremendous loss, and tragedies have changed him, physically and emotionally. For reasons that I will not reveal in this review, the Abbotts anchor themselves at Emmett’s compound, an abandoned factory that carries more rust than iron. It’s a spot with plenty of hiding spaces, but the metal – coming in all shapes and just laying around – leaves scores of horrible opportunities for racket.
Not all of the Abbotts stay put. The family splits up. Krasinski’s camera follows a not-to-be-named Abbott on a journey that explores the extent of E.T. damage, which allows for plenty of nefarious carnage from our inhuman antagonists. On a couple of key occasions, the story offers dueling and simultaneous deadly disputes between humans and our Venom-Bolt-Leatherface killers, both at Emmett’s place and the world out there. Krasinski flips back and forth between two locales with some nifty editing, while doom seems almost inevitable.
Krasinski cleverly constructs the chase and confrontation sequences, and especially the happenstances on the unnamed Abbott’s journey from home, but admittedly, a couple of crucial set-pieces at Emmett’s place do feel staged. Oxygen becomes a prime commodity, and the lack of it feels like a gimmick rather than an authentic state of affairs. In other words, I wasn’t always holding my breath in angst.
Still, the production values, especially the sound, are noticeably top-notch, as we frequently are subjected to the twisted voice boxes of these enemies, as they emit sounds like The Predator (in “Predator” (1987)) gargling on blood.
And they don’t mess around, as the aliens have a singular thought on their minds, and it rhymes with “Dill!”
“A Quiet Place Part II” succeeds at expanding on the 2018 monster movie’s universe, and we also get close looks at other surviving Americans and their worldviews, which are sometimes vastly primal rather than civilized. Still, when outer space serial killers threaten your life for 474 days, some empathy is in order…sort of.
Have sympathy for movie audiences too, because Krasinski and his team deliver thrills and chills, some classically told and others uniquely so. Although jump scares become a frequent go-to move here, which isn’t a distinctive device at all. The sequel also loses the intimacy of the first film, and with it, those long, agonizing stretches of on-screen silence that translate in the theatre. I remember feeling awfully distracted back in 2018 as a woman – sitting in the seat to my left – was digging in her popcorn, and her totally inconsiderate action (just kidding…well, mostly) – was by far – the loudest commotion in the theatre. Those moments aren’t nearly as prevalent here, but Krasinski isn’t repeating himself, so there’s that.
I did note that the protagonists walking and running in their bare feet – day and night – can take a harsh toll on their dogs. Maybe the Abbotts can find four pairs of Hush Puppies at an abandoned mall in the third film. Well, by then, they could be in Europe or outer space. Oh, let’s hope not.
⭐⭐ 1/2 out of ⭐⭐⭐⭐
Image and Trailer credits: Paramount Pictures