A Quiet Place Part II (2021) - Reviewed By Dj Mack

For an end of the world disaster series, the Quiet Place movies definitely keep things small scale. The first film was largely set around a farm; this sequel (with a bit of prequel bolted on the front) involves an epic walk over a hill to a disused factory, where much of the suspense involves the opening and closing of a door. Big budget films are back!
To be fair, what made the first film so memorable was that literally every move anyone made could be their last, as noise-hating alien monsters would attack out of nowhere at the slightest sound. That film ended with the surviving humans - Evelyn (Emily Blunt) and children Regan (Millicent Simmonds), Marcus (Noah Jupe) and baby / noise machine Abbott - figuring out a way to use Regan's hearing aid to stun the aliens long enough to kill them. As we soon discover here, sometimes that's not enough.

After a prequel sequence showing how things went to hell, we pick up where we left off: Evelyn's husband (writer / director John Krasinski) is still dead and the farm is still on fire, so after grabbing a few essentials - and a quick cameo from the nail in the step that was so memorable in the first film - they hit the road. With only a shotgun and portable speaker to broadcast the feedback the monsters hate, even the shortest journey is extremely risky, and they've got a long walk (with no shoes) ahead of them.

Eventually they meet up with former neighbour Emmett (Cillian Murphy), who has moved into the aforementioned disused factory for safety even though the whole place is full of teetering chunks of scrap iron just waiting to go crash. Emmett's basically given up after the death of his wife and says (very quietly) they should too, but Regan has bigger plans - and a mysterious radio station broadcasting the same song over and over is a big part of them.

A Quiet Place part II was one of the first films pulled from release when Covid-19 started shutting things down, and watching it in a crowded cinema it's not hard to see why. More than most horror films, this one works because of the shared experience, and the audience's experience is one we share with the people on the screen - in a film where silence is vital and the slightest sound could have dire consequences, we're all but forced to keep quiet to hear what's (not) going on.

(now come up with a movie concept that forces people to keep their phones turned off)

While this is definitely a small scale thriller (and the story's few attempts to broaden things out don't really make a lot of sense), that works to its advantage in creating a world where doing literally anything could get you killed. A quick walk down the (ruined) shops becomes a series of knife-edge scenes, and Krasinski takes full advantage of this. He's constantly dragging out moments for maximum tension and throwing in just as many jump scares as creepy moments where we notice something moving in the background before the characters do.

If A Quiet Place thrived on its intimacy, the sequel takes the world so richly - yet so sparsely - created by John Krasinski and expands it, without ever losing the reasons the first film worked. (Though there are arguably a few too many repeated beats from the first film scattered throughout).
Opening with an utterly barnstorming, thrill-a-moment edge-of-your-seat sequence that shows what happened on Day 1 of the alien invasion in a small American town, A Quiet Place Part II sets its stall out early on, as it continues the story of the Abbotts and their push for post-apocalypse survival.

Jumping 473 days later, the film plunges you back into the immediate aftermath of the Abbotts' fatal encounter at the farm and their sudden need for survival. Forced to go beyond their boundaries, new mother Evelyn (Blunt, terrific in the first, but sadly sidelined in a lot of the movie), son Marcus (Jupe) and daughter Regan (Simmonds, terrific throughout) must deal with their grief and also the new threats of a changed world around them - as well as the alien marauders.

But their first discovery is Emmett (Murphy, damaged, bearded and prickly), a man who's lost his family and all touches with the humanity within...
Where A Quiet Place Part II is effective is in providing a burst of edge-of-the-seat tension among a series of well-orchestrated set pieces which bristle with unease and dread. The opening bravura sequence, with its elements of Bird Box level horror and mania, turns from glee to dread in a moment, and sets the tone of what lies ahead.

In truth, much of A Quiet Place Part II feels like portions of retreads of the first, with the creatures formerly confined to the shadows now continually out in the open. With their Venom-esque rows of teeth and shattering screams, the visual effects are thrust into the spotlight, and thankfully don't disappoint with ILM really upping the game amid the soundscape of clicking and stalking. 

Behind the camera, Krasinski opts for a slow and steady hand, possibly knowing that most of what transpires is a retread of the first, albeit in different locations, but wisely understanding what made them work so well. From a train car to a marina, via a seemingly deserted and cavernous steel mill, the dread is dialled up in a series of claustrophobic in-your-face encounters that exist solely to jangle the nerves and force viewers to the edges of their seat.

And it's solidly and expertly done with Krasinski showing his skill for the required elements - and in one sequence, setting out four encounters of varying levels of tension without once ever losing anything from the ongoing cross-cutting. It helps most of the conflict comes from being invested still in the characters, despite a Covid-19 induced hiatus, and from nods to the first film's terror swerves. (Those steps and that nail figure briefly again).

Outside of the perfectly paced sequences, the film falls slightly flat as it brings to the fore the usual survivalist tropes and post-apocalyptic factions. Anyone with a hint of knowledge of shows like The Walking Dead and practically any other world-destroyed genre will find nothing but familiarity here, and a crushing sense of shallow characterisation outside of the core group and its new interloper.

Equally, the film's conclusion feels abrupt and formulaic, giving A Quiet Place Part II more a lingering feeling of a companion piece that's been expanded out by box-office necessity rather than initial narrative desire. It shows with leaps of logic and odd character choices that stand out in moments that don't quite stick the landing.

But as an in-cinema piece of spectacle, A Quiet Place Part II is a terrifically taut piece of knuckle-whitening entertainment. It uses its silence as its weapon, once again wielding terror in a slow-wielding calm of execution that delivers on the promised tension and sickening horror of a family menaced by threats from all angles.

If there's any real flaws here, it's that it lacks the truly memorable set-pieces of the first film. Relying just a little too much on Marcus being a dumbass doesn't help, but Regan stepping up to be the real hero more than balances that out. For a film that's basically one long creep through a haunted house waiting for a sudden sound to break the tension - only here, the sudden sound makes things worse - this gives her a surprisingly strong character arc. The film's better for it.