Review by Jonathan W. Hickman
“A Quiet Place Part II” is the best reason to return to a theater this weekend. Even though it has “quiet” in the title, this sequel maximizes booming sounds and earsplitting tones to jolt, scare, and excite viewers. See it with the volume cranked to 11.
Building on the intensity of its predecessor, “Part II” almost matches the sensational 2018 sneaky hit monster movie that frightened audiences into whispering their praise. Picking up where the last one left off, we learn more about the alien invaders, who hunt primarily by sound.
Director and co-writer John Krasinski smartly flashes back to give us a peek at the tumultuous extraterrestrial arrival. These opening sequences are terrific and well-worth seeing on the big screen. This background adds to character development, deepening our connection to the Abbott family at the center of the story.
In “Part II,” the surviving Abbotts are forced to leave the relative safety of their farm and investigate the mysterious state of their community. So naturally, they take along with them their youngest member, a baby, cleverly sealed in a noise-proof basket. And they don’t forget their secret weapon against the invaders—a modified hearing aid coupled with an amplifier that gives the monsters a killer earache.
Krasinski, who briefly appears in the film’s impressive opening, relies on actor Cillian Murphy (see “Inception” and “28 Days Later”) to step into his heroic shoes. Murphy plays the hapless but quick-witted Emmett, a neighbor who must help the Abbotts battle the deadly creatures. Emily Blunt returns playing the shotgun-wielding Evelyn, the take-charge matriarch of the family. And, once again, Evelyn gets help from her fearless, deaf daughter, Regan (Millicent Simmonds), who demonstrates unique resourcefulness. Blunt and Simmonds make a powerhouse duo, delivering convincing heroic performances.
What doesn’t entirely transfer are the emotional traumas of its unrelenting previous outing. Both movies push the PG-13 envelop with savage bloodletting, but there were scenes in the first movie that was so intense that some viewers had to close their eyes and cover their ears. Unfortunately, this middle installment in a likely trilogy never surpasses jump scare shock value.
But the entertaining jumps and bumps are almost constant as the Abbotts and their new partner Emmett scramble to survive. Krasinski, who co-writes with Scott Beck and Bryan Woods, neatly expands the “Quiet Place” universe without straying too far from the personal story that audiences found originally endearing.
The Abbotts might have left the farm, but they remain close to home. This relative narrative tightness keeps the movie focused and the running time refreshingly around 90 minutes.
In addition to the frightening spiderlike beings that bounce destructively through walls, gobbling up innocents, Krasinski makes excellent use of his secret weapon—sound or the lack of it. The visuals take a backseat to the sound design that relies on silence to sharpen viewer attention.
This technique, involving no score or muted tones, can telegraph coming violence, but, thankfully, the filmmaking team doesn’t wear out their clever audio device. And it helps that Simmonds is deaf in real life; so, the movie creatively brings us into her world, which makes the horror and the fight against it all the more personal.
Don’t expect this to be the end of the “Quiet Place” saga; the surviving Abbotts aren’t through battling strange, deadly invaders, who are all claws, teeth, and ears.