dir. John Krasinski.
As with so many 2020 releases, A Quiet Place Part II was initially postponed ‘for the foreseeable future’: in contrast however to other projects that found a home on VOD director Krasinski assured audiences that the follow-up to his 2018 shocker would eventually welcome audiences back to theatres (though unbeknownst to him this would be over a year later). A bold move, but one that was certainly justified.
For this is a film meant for cinemas, its biology so perfectly attuned that it seems impossible to imagine experiencing it any other way. Every aspect requires a theatrical presentation, from booming speakers that render viewers rigid with tension, a huge auditorium which allows that tension to breathe between audience members, to a screen so large that every hushed, mouthed word can be lip-read.
The sequel picks up immediately after the events of the original, save for a blistering flashback that’s as visceral as anything seen before. Serving a dual purpose the opening not only introduces Cillian Murphy’s family friend Emmett but also showcases some of the finest editing in recent genre history: as the creatures attack an unsuspecting small-town Lee (Krasinski) and Regan (Millicent Simmonds) struggle to escape with their lives, a ballet of destruction punctuated by spells of silence or a cacophony of chaos depending on whose perspective the action is witnessed from. The sequence plays out like a game of aural tag as the audio is passed between characters through physical contact, and is truly mesmeric to witness.
Though still comparatively early in his career (this is only his fourth feature) Krasinski shows himself adept at weaving multiple narrative strands, the action zipping between three separated family members who each have their own horrific trials to endure. It’s frenetic stuff, a balancing act that sticks the landing and has enough emotional clout to ensure the audience cares about each arc equally – thanks, in no small part, to the talented cast. Millicent Simmonds in particular is an absolute star and looks entirely at ease carrying a film of this magnitude, her face conveying even the most subtle moments with the precision of a seasoned pro.
Despite all this there are missed opportunities. Although undeniably exciting there is little evolution in either the storytelling or characters, the film so preoccupied with delivering thrill after thrill that it rarely stops to pause for the “quieter” moments that made the first film so special: there’s no equivalent to the iPod slow dance for example, or the family game of monopoly, and the result is to make this film somewhat colder.
Whilst many horror sequels – Aliens; Dawn of the Dead; Hellbound – have a grander scope and expand their mythologies, here there is little information about the wider world or concerning the creatures themselves (save for one detail which actually lessens their threat). As such rather than going head-first into the minutiae of the universe the film instead lingers on the periphery, resulting in a wildly entertaining but safe continuation of the story.
Overall it’s a shame that more narrative risks weren’t taken, but Part II is still a well-crafted rollercoaster – fun but forgettable: just not the iconic horror experience hoped for.