“A Quiet Place Part II” Distributed by Paramount Pictures, 97 Minutes, Rated PG-13, Released May 28, 2021:
Within its first five minutes, “A Quiet Place Part II” manages to kick the pegs out from under the audience. And each time the viewer begins to scramble to his feet and regain his balance, the movie pushes him back down and keeps him disoriented and alarmed for most of its 97-minute running time.
Only toward the end of the picture does the audience fully realize that by combining suspense, terrific storytelling, deafening silence, and a kind of visceral horror, the film has effectively created one continuous and sustained jump-scare, a likely prototype for the next decade’s worth of movie thrillers and horror extravaganzas.
By sacrificing traditional horror convention, “A Quiet Place” in 2018 scored a direct hit with discerning audiences. With the audacity to establish its horror credibility by killing off not one but two of its central characters (one of them a small child), the original film also employed silence as a tool to craft overwhelming levels of suspense...both on the screen and off. After the first 20 minutes or so, viewers who rustled popcorn, crinkled a candy wrapper, or slurped a slushie risked retribution from a nervous audience swept up in the film and anxious to maintain silence in the name of self-preservation.
Less a sequel than a continuation of the 2018 original, in “A Quiet Place Part II” the hapless Abbott family resumes its baleful, barefoot odyssey through the ruins of middle-class American society in search of safety or civilization. The family moves quietly, eluding the sightless alien conquerors who hunt with an augmented and lethally-acute sense of hearing. In this brave new world, silence equals survival.
Eventually the Abbotts--widowed mom Evelyn (Emily Blunt) and her newborn baby, hearing-impaired teenage daughter Regan (Millicent Simmonds), and adolescent son Marcus (Noah Jupe)--wander into the vicinity of an abandoned factory now populated by hardened survivor Emmett (Cillian Murphy). Once a close friend of Evelyn’s late husband Lee, Emmett since the death of his wife and family has abandoned hope and embraced feral despair.
But daughter Regan has found a reason for hope: Regan’s other senses--and her survivor instincts--have been sharpened by her hearing impairment. By using a radio to create deafening audio feedback as a weapon against the sensitive ears of the alien marauders, Regan has also discovered a signal from a distant radio transmitter--a signal that cryptically transmits a continuous broadcast of the popular 1950s song “Beyond the Sea.” Regan has pinpointed the source of the transmission, and resolves to learn who’s sending it.
Written and directed by John Krasinski, by now well beyond his original fame as an actor on TV’s long-running comedy “The Office,” “A Quiet Place Part II” demonstrates how Krasinski has matured as a filmmaker since the first picture. He not only orchestrates the contributions of his cast, but cuts between multiple storylines and transitions seamlessly from the hushed existence of the Abbotts and the stone-silent world of the teenage daughter (in scenes depicted from Regan’s perspective, all sound is jarringly removed from the picture’s audio track).
The highest praise for “A Quiet Place Part II” is that the film is worthy of its predecessor. Reuniting the film’s original cast and most of its creative staff, “Part II” uses the first picture’s foundation to not only continue its effect but build upon it, and in the process adds more thrills and chills to the modern horror lexicon. The movie does presume the viewer has seen “A Quiet Place,” but box viewer attendance figures seem to make that presumption a safe bet.
By creating a persuasive continuum to the terrific 2018 film, “A Quiet Place Part II” also becomes possibly the very first horror classic of the post-pandemic era. Produced prior to the Covid-19 breakout and lockdown, “A Quiet Place Part II” premiered at New York’s Lincoln Center on March 8, 2020. But the film’s distribution was rescheduled at least four times by continuing Covid concerns before the general release was finally set for May 28, over fourteen months after the picture’s original opening. In between--a global pandemic.
But the film’s numerous delays possibly contained an unexpected benefit: In the picture’s notions of people defying their individual weaknesses to achieve collective strength, embracing uncertainty to find courage, and looking beyond their worst fears to forge ultimate strength and hope, it's natural to wonder whether the events of the past year haven’t tempered us to be especially receptive to the picture’s theme, and its moral.
Maybe the traumatic worldwide events which occurred in the interim between “A Quiet Place” and “A Quiet Place Part II” somehow matured the audience in such a way that it’s grown into the sequel...even more than the original 2018 hit inadvertently helped to condition its audience for the troubled times and unspeakable tragedies which still lay ahead at the time of its original release. We’ll never know.
“A Quiet Place Part II” is rated PG-13 for terror, violence, and disturbing images.