By Lynn Venhaus
For a pulse-pounding 97 minutes, “A Quiet Place Part II” delivers a satisfying sequel that broadens the original story with clever moves and adds to its superb cast.
Writer-director John Krasinski, who directed and co-wrote the original, has built more tension-filled sequences and delivered well-timed jump scares. He maintains what made the 2018 film uniquely scary when any noise would attract the monsters.
The Abbotts – Evelyn, her children Regan, Marcus and infant, leave their home to try to find a safer haven in the outside world. With the creatures who hunt by sound still wreaking death and destruction, it is a precarious journey – and they discover these creepy aliens are not the only threats lurking on their post-apocalyptic path.
Now, after a 14-month delay because of the coronavirus pandemic, the film has eerie parallels to what we went through in quarantine – but had been completed for a March 2020 opening.
It may be the first movie to entice people back to the local multiplexes, kicking off the traditional summer movie season. It’s comforting to share the suspense with others in a communal setting, as we emerge from our isolation to be frightened by a vastly different world.
With masterful editing from Michael Shawver, the fear is palpable, and the importance of keen sound design magnified by what may be waiting for the humans if detected. Every snap, crackle and pop are excruciating.
For the first scene, we are taken back to the Before Times – an ordinary Saturday afternoon in the small town where kids and parents are on the local ball diamond, when the sky fills with a mysterious visual as something hurtles towards earth. Quickly, parents grab their children and attempt to head home when the invading aliens pounce. The danger escalates, which leads to the events of the first film. In this flashback, Krasinski returns briefly as Lee, trying to herd his family to safety.
Part II takes up at Day 474, when the surviving Abbotts venture from their farmhouse cocoon to explore the outside world, in hopes of finding people at bonfire encampments while not attracting the marauding predators.
While the first film was stingy in its reveal of the grotesque beasts, which are giant fast-moving spidery lizard-like forms whose lethal big bite is as sharp as knives, this time they are often shown up-close. Their ferociousness is on full display, which ratchets up the terror.
The smart and resourceful Abbotts get out of numerous jams but are never far from being dinner.
Daughter Regan (Millicent Simmonds), who is deaf, hatches a plan after suspecting Bobby Darin’s song, “Beyond the Sea,” heard repeatedly on a radio station, is a signal. She takes off to save her family – and humanity – while mom Evelyn (Emily Blunt) implores their former friend and neighbor Emmett (Cillian Murphy) to go after her.
The casting of the Irish actor is genius. Almost unrecognizable with a shaggy beard and blue-collar wardrobe, Murphy convincingly plays a grieving husband and father whose undercurrent of sadness provides an emotional depth, and his expressive eyes aid in the nonverbal acting.
Emmett has made a solitary fortress in an old steel mill that he reluctantly shares with the Abbotts. Haunted by losing his family, he spends his days drawing photos of his little boy and protecting his turf. He has a pessimistic view of civilization.
As Regan’s protector on their journey to find an oasis, Emmett is challenged as well – but fights like hell to survive as his strength builds. When the pair reach a coastal island, Djimon Hounsou – in a small but pivotal role — plays a helpful resident.
Because of widening the scope, Krasinski has less for Blunt to do, but she is effective as the panic-stricken mother trying to protect her children at all costs.
The child actors stand out, particularly Millicent Simmonds as the deaf girl who is very intuitive. Her lack of hearing is crucial to the story, as in the first, and so is her cochlear implant.
While you can be cynical about that plot device, and think the film resembles M. Night Shyamalan’s “Signs” from 2002 because of another plot twist, I think the characters are worth following. Original co-screenwriters Scott Beck and Bryan Woods had helped create memorable characters that we cared about and still engage three years’ later.
Krasinski counts on moviegoers to remember key elements of the first film without too much rehashing and gives a few hints. He keeps the film moving at a good clip.
The film leaves us wanting more and is set up for a third installment. What happens in that bubble could still intrigue because of the ensemble’s outstanding work.
“A Quiet Place Part II” is even more unsettling than the first as we can really feel the uncertainty based on our own COVID-19 experiences.
“A Quiet Place Part II” is a 2020 sci-fi, horror film directed John Krasinski, starring Emily Blunt, Cillian Murphy, Noah Jupe, Millcent Simmonds and Djimon Hounsou. Rated PG-13 for terror, violence and bloody/disturbing images, the run time is 1 hour, 37 minutes. Only in theaters May 28. Lynn’s Grade: A.