I don’t appreciate jump scares, Mr Krasinski. I expected as much from A Quiet Place: Part II, but there is still much to like about this sequel to the very successful 2018 monster feature that created a silence in the cinema I hadn’t experienced since seeing The Strangers by myself. Would this new installment garner the same shut-the-hell-upness among its audience? Mostly yes.
Part II opens with a bang. It’s Day 1 of the incident that left the world overrun by toothy/flower-faced aliens that hunt purely by sound, and chaos ensues. In a flashback that reveals the speed at which the shit hit the fan, people are slaughtered in the street shortly after the neighbourhood dogs know what’s up. Emily Blunt erratically drives the family car (for real) in a thrilling one-take sequence where a bus almost hits them head on. She is forced to reverse and in the background, obscured slightly by the glass, a big, spindly monster arm slowly emerges from the broken windscreen of the bus and reaches out to us. It is delightfully “ew”.
Krasinski (back from the dead but only for now) and eldest child Regan (Millicent Simmonds) get separated from the brood and have to hole up in the local pub. But they’re not going to be able to have a nice cold pint and wait for this all to blow over – some idiot’s phone goes off and attracts the wrath of the nearest monster, who creates a fleshy Jackson Pollock all over the pub. Papa and daughter escape and catch up with the rest of the family, and we revert to the dilapidated present day.
The Abbott fam’s matriarch Evelyn (Emily Blunt) traverses the muffled white sand path with Regan, middle child Marcus (Noah Jupe) and cute-as baby that she inexplicably survived birthing in the last one, to the sort-of sanctuary of new character Emmett (Cillian Murphy channeling Joel from The Last of Us). His reluctance to help manifests itself in the various traps he has set out around his abode, and Marcus’ painful discovery of one such trap results in the most blood-curdling and authentic scream I’ve ever heard in a film of any genre (Jupe’s parents were on set that day and should be commended for not fainting.)
The gang realises (or Regan makes them realise) that their only hope of destroying the “nope” monsters is by making the trek to a radio station located “beyond the sea” to transmit the song of her hearing aid, of which the monsters are not fans. We discover that the monsters are not strong swimmers (Andre the Giant would say they “only dog paddle”) and an island escape seems in order. The plot continues towards pretty much the same conclusion reached in the first film, but on a larger (and more broadcasted) scale.
The biggest strength of this film is Millicent Simmonds. Krasinski allows her to take the lead and she is the heart of the story, showing an emotional maturity that inspires the other characters not to succumb to the pessimism one would expect of living in post-Apocalyptic times and being hunted by terrifying other-worldly creatures. She is the most adept at communicating in this new silent world as a deaf person, and the scariest moments for me were experiencing the creatures the way she does, without the jumpy crash/bang sounds that normally accompany their movements.
Noah Jupe does some excellent work as Marcus (especially as the artist of that scream) but he unfortunately becomes the character who does all the things in horror movies that you’re not meant to do. Mum puts him in charge of the baby at one point so she can go to town and pick up some more medicine, and what does he do? He goes on a nighttime sneak around the abandoned lodgings, inevitably knocking something over and alerting the monsters to the secret, mostly-soundproof hidey hole downstairs. Marcus, it’s been 474 days of this terror – get good.
Other frustrations include some underdeveloped side plots involving diseased jetty people who’ve managed to evade the monsters by living on docked boats, and an island where we spend so short a time that it’s evident that some scenes were cut to get the runtime down. It’s a very loud, crunchy film but I did grow tired of the jumps and the bangs, and so did my husband as his arm became more and more crushed every time I got ‘got’. I feel like this film works better as a family drama than a genre piece, and as a horror fan I expect more than “BOO” from creatures whose movement and Resident Evil-esque appearances could be more creatively utilised.
Going into this I had horror sequel bias and assumed I’d be writing a roast, but all in all I was pleasantly surprised by what Part II offered up. We were privileged enough to have a virtual Q&A with John Krasinski after the film and it’s impossible not to like the guy – he’s a funnier Tom Hanks with Matt Damon’s perfect set of chompers. He explained that while the first film was a parent’s promise to always protect their children, Part II is supposed to be the inevitable breaking of that promise as kids grow up and realise they have to fend for themselves.
While Part II was probably not necessary (even under Krasinski’s own admission), this tactic of letting the kids take the reins does actually work. Regan is a great heroine who doesn’t allow her fear to stifle her ability to get the job done. She harnesses that Ellen Ripley/Laurie Strode/not-necessarily-final-girl resourcefulness that makes everyone think there’s still a chance, even when faced with a giant mouth in desperate need of orthodontics.
I give A Quiet Place: Part II 7 shushing-fingers-to-the-lips out of 10. It’s in cinemas May 27 and if you take a snack in with you, for the love of God, open the wrapper before the film starts.