About 15 minutes into A Quiet Place Part II, there is an intertitle: “Day 474”. It hits a little harder than originally intended. The sequel to John Krasinski’s brilliantly clever 2018 horror was supposed to come out in March 2020, but coronavirus had other plans. While it’s in no way about the current pandemic, there’s a lot about it that plays differently now. While we may not have dealt with 18 months of alien invasion, the sense of life turned upside down and normality feeling like a foreign land resonates. There’s something quite cathartic about watching a horror in which people learn to beat the seemingly unstoppable enemy. Also, it provides an opportunity to have a really good scream.
In the first film, aliens had come to Earth with no apparent intention other than to kill anyone they found. Completely blind, these extraterrestrial creatures instead track people by sound, meaning anyone who wants to survive has to live in almost total silence. Krasinski used this very cinematic conceit to create a horror in which very few lines are spoken and the film’s soundtrack is largely the viewer’s racing heart and gasping breath. It was superb. A real ‘must see it in the cinema’ experience.
This follow-up doesn’t have the novelty of that conceit to rely on, but Krasinski is a smart director. He doesn’t try to retread the same tiptoed footsteps. He has new ideas. It’s not as thrillingly original as the first film, but it’s still significantly better than most horror sequels and full of beautiful touches.
The film begins with a flashback to the day the aliens arrived, which serves as both a refresher on the story so far and an excuse for Krasinski to show off his action chops, with the beasties running rampage through a screaming town and a heart-in-mouth car chase. Then we pick up right where the last film ended, with Evelyn Abbott (Emily Blunt) giving her everything to protect her children, Regan (Millicent Simmons), Marcus (Noah Jupe) and a brand new, unnamed baby whose screams repeatedly threatened to bring monsters a-runnin’.
Seeking safety after the destruction of their home, the family stumble across an old family friend, Emmett (Cillian Murphy), who has had an even worse apocalypse than the Abbotts and is reluctant to attach himself to anyone new. When a horrible accident befalls one of them, Evelyn, Marcus and Regan are split up, all with their own missions to protect the family, and with killer monsters between them and reunion.
Krasinski’s decision to split his three leads is both his best idea and his biggest handicap. There is a section in the middle of the film where the tension slackens, as the three make their own quiet progress, but once Krasinski tightens it up, the cutting between the three stories triples the anxiety. We know things can’t work out well for all three, and Krasinski, clearly enjoying the torture, keeps us constantly guessing.
As both writer and director, he has tremendous fun with his set pieces, all of which are fiendishly devised. He plays with sequences that are so quiet you could hear a mouse fart and others that are thunderous with noise, luring the aliens rather than simply avoiding them. And he remains excellent at punctuating the horror with really moving scenes of family love. With Blunt in a rather reduced role, Krasinski puts the emotional heavy-lifting on Simmons and Jupe. They are more than up to the task.Their performances and the story of the family learning to go on without dad may well have you weeping, when you’re not simply whimpering in fear.
Krasinski has promised that a third film is coming to close out the story and, given the quality of the first two, it’s extremely welcome. He’s shown himself to be a director worth shouting about, but only once you’ve left the silence of the cinema.
- Director: John Krasinski
- Starring: Emily Blunt, Cillian Murphy, Millicent Simmonds
- Release date: May 27 (in cinemas)