A Quiet Place: Part II has nothing on the total silence imposed sporadically on cinemas across the past twelve months. If anything, John Krasinski’s long awaited sequel marks an ironically cacophonous return to big screen entertainment. That said, Part II is noisier than its predecessor from the off. It’s broader in scale and ambition too. Whether that’s for the better is less convincing. Indeed, conventional wisdom has it that less is more. By that logic, A Quiet Place II is, more or less, the lesser to its more heart wrenching predecessor. Still good though.
It was always going to be a tough ask for Krasinski to follow so sure and effective a horror debut. A wiser move might have been to seek the left field. The underdog in 2018, A Quiet Place was the sleeper hit that hit hard. Even those less enamoured with horror found resonance in a tale that put family first. Add a marvellously original conceit (ssh to survive), not to mention on point performances, and a classic was born. Few films in recent years can boast a water cooler moment as that in which Emily Blunt’s heavily pregnant Evelyn stepped upon a rusty nail at the very worst possible moment. Part II has little quite so iconic. There’s much to like but a familiarity that blunts the edges. The issue is less that the film finds Krasinski repeating himself than it is his inadvertent repetition of many a cliche and plot twist past.
Having opened, rather adroitly, in medias res last time around, Krasinski’s decision to launch his sequel with a flashback struggles not to feel just a touch reductive. The choreography is exceptional, the sonorous juxtaposition of the loud and muffled nailed and visual flair superb. It’s the narrative retraction – telling little not already known – that doesn’t quite work.
Those new additions to the plot that do matter land gracelessly. Their future importance all but underlined in neon lights. We meet a new character, in the form of Cillian Murphy’s Emmett, and do, at least, benefit from a fleeting show in from Krasinski himself, whose Lee Abbott met a grisly end last time around. There are perks to writing your own material, after all.
In for the long run, Emily Blunt once more lends maternal grit to the role of Evelyn, with Millicent Simmonds and Noah Jupe continuing to impress as her children: Regan and Marcus. They’ve a newborn on the scene too now, which is less than ideal. In their favour, the Abbott’s have discovered a nifty trick to debilitate their alien foes. All Regan has to do is whip out her cochlear implant and bounce it off a blaring radio. It’s a monster busting skill that comes in handy as the family seek a new home and one that may well hold the answer to defeating the creatures once and for all.
Boasting a budget almost three times the size of its predecessor, A Quiet Place II looks every dollar of the sixty million it cost to make. For one, there’s a simply stunning soundscape from the design studio of Ethan Van der Ryn and Erik Aadahl. Pair that with duskier than prior visuals from British cinematographer Polly Morgan and you have a feature that proves unfailingly watchable and painstakingly tense to hear. In one extended scene, a void of absolute silence erupts. It’s a beauty to behold.
Krasinski too raises his own bar, with slicker and more dynamic directorial decisions. If his division of the script into increasingly segregated episodes might occasionally hamper the overarching flow of the whole, Krasinski’s effort to experiment is admirable.
There’s nothing so wrong with A Quiet Place: Part II that it cannot quite successfully sustain the slight 97 minutes it fills. Fans of the first should find the second a worthy enough successor, to say the least. It’s just a pity that the film never really justifies its own existence. Everything is plotted to get characters from A to B, and ensure each is consistently busy. The final note, meanwhile, is frustratingly circular. With the abundant skill he so clearly possesses, Krasinski’s future in the director’s chair remains promising. It’s less likely to be in a further return to the Abbotts.