Director John Krasinski follows up his 2018 post-apocalyptic horror hit, turning nearly every ordinary moment into one of almost unbearable tension, writes Katie Parker.
I have to say, three years on from A Quiet Place’s release, I wasn’t exactly dying to know what the Abbott family were up to. Directed by The Office alum John Krasinski and following a small family’s fight for survival in a world besieged by huge, spider-like monsters that hunt humans by sound, in 2018 the film achieved massive critical and commercial success—and was, at the time, one I enjoyed very much.
Yet, in the harsh light of the intervening years, my enthusiasm waned somewhat, and I struggled to remember what it was that elevated it above subsequent subpar copycats like Bird Box and The Silence. The arrival of a sequel, rather presumptuously labelled “Part II” no less, seemed highly unnecessary. Hadn’t they already found the solution to their problem? And hadn’t that solution been just a little bit obvious? Did the world really need more footage of barefoot Emily Blunt padding silent and stoic along abandoned train tracks amid a still and tranquil forest and against a halo of lens flare?
Happily, however, it was only minutes into A Quiet Place Part II’s excellent opening sequence that I remembered what I enjoyed so much about its forebearer—and why, sometimes (and especially in horror), there is just as much fun to be had in a film that elicits a physical reaction as one that provokes an intellectual one.
We pick up with the Abbott family where we left off, as they emerge victorious from a fiery, pitchy showdown with their creature nemeses. Now down a husband and up a baby, Evelyn (Blunt) and her two children—the nervy Marcus (Noah Jupe) and defiant, deaf teenager Regan (Millicent Simmonds)—are in urgent search of shelter. A smoke signal in the distance seems as good an option as any, and soon the family finds themselves guests of the very reluctant Emmett (Cillian Murphy) who, coincidentally, is an old family friend from the before-times.
As I’m sure you can imagine, their safety in this refuge is short-lived. Soon the demands of daily life, as well as Regan’s determination to share her newfound weapon with the world, entice the family out of their hidey-hole and into harm’s way.
With excellent instincts for both setup and pay-off, Krasinski once again milks the tension inherent in his premise for all it’s worth, turning nearly every ordinary moment into one of almost unbearable tension. The set pieces, and all the noisy danger inherent within them, are masterful—remember the sticky-uppy nail from the first movie? Krasinski does, and with more closeups of bare feet than a Tarantino movie, expect that kind of thing in spades (including a brief but enjoyable cameo from the nail itself).
What he thankfully leaves behind though, is a lot of the schmaltz. Krasinski clearly still harbors a sentimental (and not particularly subtle) heart; Emmett, for instance, is the kind of bereaved character who yells “don’t talk about my wife!” if anyone mentions his dead wife, and who spends most of his free time painting wan portraits of his dead son. Even so, the family drama and teen angst elements of the original have been dialed back significantly, leaving much more room for what Krasinski clearly does best: tightly wound tension, slow, deliberate creeping dread, and jump-out-of-your-seat suspense.
Originally due to premiere worldwide in March of last year, A Quiet Place Part II was one of the first big releases of 2020 to be cowed by Covid—and one of the few to be held back in favour of a cinematic release.
The kind of film that makes you wince and groan in horror, writhe in your seat with anticipation, and gasp out loud with every delicious jump-scare, it was the right decision to let A Quiet Place Part II wait for the big screen. A timely reminder of the power of cinema as an experience rather than an intellectual exercise, Krasinski’s film might not hold up to being picked apart after the fact—but, in the moment, offers the kind of immersive, diverting and super entertaining thrill ride that going to the movies is all about.