John Krasinski’s A Quiet Place was a massive success in 2018, when it was met with a large box office cume and critical appreciation. In part, this critical fascination was due to the sheer silence the film conjured in its theatrical audience. With the sound design so deliberate (and so dedicated to being quiet), idle chatter and candy wrapper rustling in the theater was tacitly discouraged.
A Quiet Place has its moments, showcasing Krasinski’s ability to plant overt seeds in suspenseful sequences which (at their best) conjure delightful tension. Perhaps not the most groundbreaking horror-thriller, but it is not hard to see why it was such a crowd-pleaser.
A Quiet Place Part II—which is now being discussed as one of the first resuscitative heartbeats at the domestic box office since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic—has the same crowd-pleasing kernels. It is evident from the film’s lengthy, inaugural (and best) set piece, which depicts the first day of this fictional world’s apocalyptic event: the crashing to Earth of lanky, face-plated monsters who hunt through their acute sense of hearing.
Krasinski’s sense of pacing and storyboarding (alongside the precision of the editing and DP Polly Morgan’s fluid camera movement) shines in those first 10 minutes. And while the film never rises to this level of excitement again, this sequel provides ample set pieces sprinkled across the 97-minute runtime to satisfy those seeking for thrills.
The downside–to both this and its predecessor–is that the rollercoaster of up-and-down tension is all there is to this conceit. The narrative, meanwhile, lacks substance or substantial world-building. This isn’t to say a sequel to a monster movie needs to do anything clunky like explaining the origins of the aggressor or giving them a robust mythology. But A Quiet Place Part II reads in long stretches as a re-hash. It even replaces Krasinki’s character with another grizzled, stoic male hero.
The emotional stakes, too, are lacking, but not for lack of trying. The performances from the ensemble—Emily Blunt, Millicent Simmonds, Noah Jupe, and Cillian Murphy—are all grounded and watchable. Although, they embody simple characters with emotional baggage recognizable for a film of this sort. The ghosts of the fallen haunt them, but that haunting doesn’t resonate off the screen.
Krasinski repeats his process from A Quiet Place here. He plants objects within the environment which will clearly factor into climactic moments later on. And the knowledge that those objects will certainly throw a spanner in the works adds a metatextual enjoyment; our self-awareness fuels the suspense.
On the whole, though, the set pieces grow repetitive—so much so that when we reach a cross-cutting, three-pronged apex in the second half of the film, it reads more samey than thrilling. As the saying goes, variety is the spice of life. These two monster movies are entertaining, but I don’t think I will be itching for a third.
A Quiet Place Part II: B-
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