As quarantines and lockdowns are starting to slowly end around the world, people are returning to theaters to experience films the way they were meant to be – with gigantic screens, surround sound, expensive refreshments, and appropriate seating to keep others separated. Just in case. For cinephiles and casual movie goers alike, we’re finally able to get back into our passions, immersing ourselves in the highs and lows of cinema once again. Together.
For this humble schmoe, my first foray back to the multiplex resulted in taking a long-awaited gander at A Quiet Place Part II (2020); the delayed, highly anticipated, lean and mean sequel to the major sleeper hit of 2018. Once again, silence is survival and an exceptional premise brought to its proverbial limit and beyond by The Office alum John Krasinski, as he directs, writes, and acts in a terrifying and intense continuation with thrills, chills, and even a bit of heart.
Starting where the first film left off, after discovering a weakness of the blind alien creatures that mercilessly wiped out a majority of the population, the remaining members of the Abbott family; Evelyn, Regan, and Marcus (Emily Blint, Millicent Simmonds, and Noah Jupe) take their newborn baby and leave their destroyed, isolated home, venturing out beyond their marked borders. As the clan travels into the vast unknown of the decimated county, they soon discover that the menacing creatures aren’t the only deadly threats to their dwindling chances of survival.
First off, let’s talk about the “quiet” element of the film. Krasinski utilizes this aspect to a masterful degree, focusing on every sound from nearly every person, object, and thing, raising our awareness on what causes too much noise from basically everything under the sun. With this execution, we as an audience become as watchful, weary, and anxious over what could draw the vicious creatures out of hiding as much as the characters. Plus this completely amplifies the tone, scares, and tension to an insane, nerve shattering level. I swear if the Oscars recognized horror films more often, this would’ve been a shoe-in for best sound mixing and editing. And if that wasn’t great enough, along with the aforementioned sound, there’s also the looming and sensational score by Marco Beltrami that acts as a surprising and connected companion piece to the film, coming in and out with stellar and emotional precision. Phenomenal work.
Secondly, It’s also worth mentioning that Krasinski expertly pushes the boundaries of the PG-13 rating, servicing up some truly messed up moments that rivals quite a few rated R horror films that have more leeway with violence and gore. Here, less may be shown, but what’s onscreen is wildly kinetic and supremely nasty. There’s always been a lively debate in the horror community where horrorhounds degrade and marginalize PG-13 films, stating that they can’t compete with rated R fares because of their set rules with blood. Let this be another example on why that’s not the case, as this film proves that a lower rating doesn’t necessarily mean lesser impact or quality in scary movies when done the right way.
Also, Krasinski joins other actors-turned-directors such as Denzel Washington, Ben Affleck, Regina King, and even Dave Franco in graciously understanding the notion of focusing on his actor’s portrayals. Plenty of shots and scenes were primarily aimed on the players, and JK trusts them to do their jobs well. While this sequel is hugely expansive in scope, it never sacrifices that personal intimacy established by its predecessor. If anything, it greatly enhances it. This, of course, leads to the performances, which this baby doesn’t skimp on with strong showings all around from Blunt, Simmonds, and Jupe. The top-notch casting of chameleon Cilian Murphy as tortured, dutiful Emmett was also an inspired choice as well. Plus the indomitable Djimon Hansuou shows up in a smaller but significant role which is always a treat to witness. Both of these actors are at home in humanistic or apocalyptic stories so they fit this like a glove.
However, the leader of the pack goes to the young Millicent Simmonds as Regan Abbott. Her role was expanded this time around, with Krasinski shooting a few moments from her deaf perspective. Since the actress is deaf in real life, this added another layer to the fear and terror of those scenes, and showcased the struggles and bravery Regan possessed, which Simmonds brought to the forefront in a big way. She effectively developed her character and represented the deaf community all in one fail swoop. Hopefully we’ll see more from this kid in the future because she definitely has the chops, and held her own next to these seasoned actors.
As with the first film, my only miniscule negative was just wanting a bit more from the story. Hopefully down the line another sequel will undoubtedly remedy this because there’s definitely more to tell here. And I don’t believe I’m alone in wanting to return to a quiet place either. As it stands, this silenced tale of dystopian escapism is exactly what the doctor ordered. Especially with the return to the cineplex after so very very long. If anything, the big screen presentation as well as Krasinski’s style of directing emphatically brought up the spectacle and chills of this sequel in an insurmountable way.
While it may take some mulling over to determine if this is on par or surpasses the original, there’s no denying that Krasinski is proving very quickly to be a talented writer/director who knows how to tell a compelling and suspenseful story, filled with jolts, scares, hope, and humanity, even in the worst of circumstances. I can’t wait to see what he comes up with next in this series. Unlike most, I’m sure it won’t go out with a bang, but with a brilliant hush. Pun intended.
Review written by Marcus Wilturner