Courtney Howard is a LAFCA, CCA, OFCS and AWFJ member, as well as a Rotten Tomatometer-approved film critic. Her work has been published on Variety, She Knows and Awards Circuit.
Courtney Howard // Film Critic
A QUIET PLACE PART II
Rated PG-13, 97 minutes
Directed by: John Krasinski
Director John Krasinski’s A QUIET PLACE roared onto the scene in a big way back in 2018. The lean, brisk, tension-fueled horror film was the sleeper hit of the year, gaining heavy critical and commercial acclaim. Once again embracing a snappy pace and focus on familial dynamics in a dystopian landscape, the creatively named A QUIET PLACE PART II earns its place as one of the rare, superb sequels that surpasses its already perfect predecessor. Immersive sound design is again the superstar, but Krasinski, who took on sole writing duties this time around, provides the playground for the incredibly intense, moving, and gripping dramatics that power the picture.
Directly following the events from the first film, the Abbott family, what remains of them anyways, is forced to move on without much time to grieve their losses. Their home base was decimated by the deadly alien creatures who’ve been stalking and laying waste to humans since landing 474 days prior. The monsters not only robbed them of their youngest toddler son, they also killed the patriarch Lee (Krasinski) during an act of sacrifice saving his two tweens from their clutches. Evelyn (Emily Blunt), who’s just given birth to a baby boy, her deaf daughter Regan (Millicent Simmonds) and anxious son Marcus (Noah Jupe) have figured out a sufficient system how to kill the creatures. Compelled to find new housing and possibly more survivors, they hit the road, pushing themselves beyond boundaries meant for their safety. They find one person fairly swiftly – Emmett (Cillian Murphy), who’s been holed away in self-imposed isolation. And he warns them that humankind may no longer be worth saving.
Each character has a forceful arc. For Evelyn, she’s got to keep emotionally afloat for their survival. These scenes give Blunt lots of Movie Star Moments. Heartrending sentiments that strength can be found in sorrow are subtle, but hold profundity. Though the first film identifies more as a survivalist film, the next chapter leans more towards a coming-of-age for its two younger protagonists. While Regan’s focus is on broadcasting her solution to a wider area to help save humanity, Marcus is struggling with his anxiety, haunted by the past. His flashback in the cold open allows for a stark contrast to their pleasant, idyllic before times, mixing amidst the gathering townsfolk at the suburban little league game. Soon-thereafter the terror begins and we see how the family operates as a splintered unit. This brilliant foreshadowing comes into play in the film’s climax where Krasinski spins multiple plates at once in terms of how these characters strategize and troubleshoot problems.
There are, of course, sharp nods to the previous chapter here. The spaceship toy that plays a part in the youngest son’s demise sits ominously on a grocery store shelf as the camera lingers past its dwelling. The nail poking out from the basement stairs stands at attention awaiting its next victim. Yet those winking references are wisely front-loaded to successfully bridge the two films and easily transition into the larger world being built – one with the potential for ensuing wickedness. The filmmaker is careful to not rely on repetition when it comes to the frights or compounding, claustrophobic situations. We’re to expect the unexpected. There’s still foot gore ahead, but it’s introduced early and in a new manner. Rules of the world also expand. The way the alien behemoths taunt and pursue humans is captured in exciting ways, from the camera placement to the way mounting dread is dissected and restructured. Same goes for the audible journey we’re taken on, specifically when the sound turns insular in its application from Regan’s perspective.
Marco Beltrami’s score seizes on musical themes from the previous feature and expounds on them exponentially, augmenting character driven action and the sequel’s thematic underpinnings of sadness, resolution and resolve. An out of tune, sour piano arrangement accompanying the imagery of this cohesive family unit, trudging along an unmarked path, feeling completely disconnected from their world hits resounding chords. Cinematographer Polly Morgan’s effused light provides a fascinating juxtaposition, balancing the beauty of nature with the omnipresent dangers lurking.
A QUIET PLACE PART II opens in theaters on May 28.