John Krasinski’s long-awaited sequel to his debut feature A Quiet Place is louder, more ambitious and more expensive than its predecessor, with his expertise in the horror genre delivering a powerful cinematic experience that reminds us just what we have been missing about going to the movies.
A Quiet Place Part II kicks off where the first film left off. The Abbott family have just lost their father and are dangerously low on the oxygen that is required to survive with a newborn baby in a world where even the slightest noise can bring about instant death.
While the film’s promotional material markets Emily Blunt’s Evelyn as the lead, it is daughter Regan – played brilliantly by deaf actress Millicent Simmonds – who takes centre stage.
The plot splits into two as we cut between Evelyn’s struggle to care for her newborn baby and Regan’s daunting journey to find what could potentially be the key to saving humanity.
She is joined in this pursuit by new character Emmett (played by Cillian Murphy) – a neighbourhood friend of the Abbott family prior to the apocalypse, who has become jaded by past tragedies.
Thankfully the hands-clenched-to-seats experience that made the original such a hit returns in full force. There is a sense here that Krasinski is revelling in the psychological discomfort that the film imposes on its audience.
This is especially noticeable in the film’s prelude – a flashback to “day one” of the invasion where Krasinski briefly reprises his role as Lee Abbott. The tension is almost unbearable as we wait for this picture of idyllic rural American civility to be viciously burst by a sudden injection of violence and tragedy. Krasinski masterfully plays with his audience, focusing on numerous misdirections, such as the crack of a baseball bat making connection with the ball, keeping the audience in excruciating suspense. When the violence does arrive, the film does not hold back.
Krasinski’s ability to create tension mainly through the sound design of the film rather than the visuals continues to delight.
Krasinski relies on these tools throughout the film to build suspense. There is a temptation to say that the repetition of these techniques escalates into over-reliance, but at no point do they become any less effective. In 2018, A Quiet Place spawned a new subgenre of dystopian horror that prioritises sound (or the lack thereof) as the main component of suspense.
Since A Quiet Place was released, Netflix has released two entries into the aural dystopia subgenre – BirdBox and The Silence – to both critical and commercial success. The early box office success of A Quiet Place Part II indicates this is not the last we will see of this subgenre.
Krasinski once again demonstrates his perceptive understanding of the horror genre and his ability to innovate within it. The use of implied violence and anticipation is nothing new in creating tension, but it is Krasinski’s ability to achieve this mainly through the sound design of the film rather than the visuals that continues to delight.
A Quiet Place Part II suffers from the same problems that befall most sequels. A lot of the thematic ground is the same here as the first movie and the story never quite lives up to its sensational prelude.
Krasinski himself has said that he views this film as a continuation of the first – which he described as a love letter to his children – rather than an entirely separate piece of work. The only evolution this time around is that while the first film looked at how far a parent is willing to go to protect their child, Part II is a rumination on how children seek to honour the legacy of their parents as they respond to adversity.
While the scares will not come as a shock to most, nor will the plot offer any major surprises, A Quiet Place Part II deepens a world which still captivates us as it did back in 2018.
It has now set a pandemic era box office record – opening in the US to over $60 million. Records were also broken in Australia where the film grossed $4 million in its opening weekend. A total which surpasses even the original and even more impressively, was achieved without the help of the Victorian market (representing 30 per cent of Australia’s cinema revenue).
These numbers reflect the fact that A Quiet Place Part II is an experience that demands its audience gets to the cinema and delivers a cinematic experience that, contrary to recent pessimism, shows that people have been desperate for a reason to get back to the movies.