Seeing A Quiet Place in a packed cinema back in 2018 is one of the more memorable cinema-going experiences I’m sure many of us have had in recent times. With a central premise that revolves around the idea of sound inviting danger, the many moments of drawn-out silent tension could be felt across the whole room. I saw it on a packed opening night, and there is nothing quite like the collective silence of a large number of people transfixed at what is happening up on the screen, with the whole audience feeling complicit in the world of the movie (making it a quiet place indeed). It is the type of experience that typifies why we have all missed the cinema so much this year, and why it feels so good to be able to start going back.
It is fitting then, that one of the first blockbusters to welcome us back to our cherished multiplexes is the sequel to that memorable cinematic experience. A Quiet Place Part II is one of the many 2020 blockbusters that had to shift its release date, and one that held out for when cinemas reopen their doors, clearly appreciative of what seeing a film like this in a cinema can add to the effect of such a thriller. While this sequel cannot quite recapture the pin drop tautness of the original, this will still be a welcome big-screen experience for many, once again keen to make you squirm in your seat.
The proceedings kick off with a flashback to the day that the race of sound-sensitive aliens first came into the earth, and made quick work of any human who happened to make too much noise. It is a hell of an opening, reintroducing us to the characters to the Abbott family – dad Lee (director/writer John Krasinki), wife Evelyn (Emily Blunt), deaf daughter Regan (Millicent Simmonds), and infant son watching their older son Marcus (Noah Jupe) at a baseball game.
It is a highly effective prologue that demonstrates a similar approach to horror-tinged spectacle to Steven Spielberg’s 2005 War of the Worlds. Krasinski keeps his camera moving throughout the chaos, as the sound design throws us in and out of Regan’s scope of hearing is suitably disorientating and inventive in crafting a strong sense of panic and dread. It is an impressive way to kick it off, matching the tragic opening of the original by providing an opening that begins to expand the
From there, the film picks up right where we left the surviving members of the Abbott family at the end of the first film: Lee is gone, but Evelyn, Marcus, Regan, and Evelyn’s newborn baby have survived following Regan’s discovery that high-frequency audio feedback debilitates the blind, sound-sensitive aliens. With their home now destroyed, they take to the road to seek new shelter and aid from other survivors. When they cross paths with Emmett (Cillian Murphy), an acquaintance from their old life, they discover that there is more than just the aliens to fear.
The film then splits the narrative in two; Regan and Emmett journey out to find a way to spread the news of the feedback discovery, while Evelyn and Marcus stay put to look after the baby. It’s not a rare thing for a sequel to feature a split narrative following our characters on separate arcs and journeys, and in the case here it’s used to both expand the world of the franchise and keep the story family-focused.
It often feels as though Emily Blunt’s Evelyn doesn’t have a great deal to do, and many of the decisions made by her and Marcus will prove to be a little infuriating. But the other half of the narrative, featuring Regan very much as the leading figure, is much more successful. We see glimpses of how the invasion has affected people in different ways, often leading to some intense moments that suggest a very dark corner of this world’s reality.
Murphy is very dependable as Emmett, as he always is, even if the character feels like Krasinski filling the void left in the absence of his own character, Lee. The film completely belongs to the teenage Simmonds as Regan. The film often throws us right into her perspective of events, and the sense of determination and strength on-screen makes Regan a great hero to root for in this narrative. She clinches on to hope even in the bleakest moments and has truly emerged as the heart of this franchise.
A Quiet Place Part II was probably never going to quite capture that same spark the original had in terms of silence-inducing frights, and that does very much prove to be the case. The sound design is once again used very intensively, even if it all results much more in big loud bangs and chaos to punctuate certain scenes (this quiet place is rather loud this time out). The sequences are very well put together, with the grain from Polly Morgan’s 35mm cinematography adding terrific texture to this overgrown post-invasion environment.
But there’s rarely a moment where Krasinski will stray too far from the tried and tested methods, leading to sequences that end up playing out to a rather predictable rhythm. There’s very much a Spielberg vibe running through much of the way the action is framed, which ultimately leaves the film feeling less distinctive than Krasinski’s own work in the first film.
Sequels are a difficult trick to pull off, as many rarely manage to exceed their predecessor. But A Quiet Place Part II comes closer than most. It is handsomely made and features the kind of sequences that many blockbuster-hungry cinema-goers will likely get a kick out of. Even if it ultimately does end up feeling like much of the same thing, it still offers glimpses into further corners of this world that intrigue, all the while confirming Simmonds as a brilliant talent.
A Quiet Place Part II is in UK cinemas June 4.