2018’s A Quiet Place is a modern horror masterpiece, set in a post-apocalyptic world where sound attracts deadly, monstrous creatures. It follows a family navigating the perils of giant monsters and the infinitely worse horrors of parenthood. It made the most of a simple, effective premise, delivered nail-biting tension and likeable characters. Writer-director John Krasinski and the original cast all return for the sequel, but the magic of the original is sadly absent in A Quiet Place Part II.
After the events of the first film, Evelyn (Emily Blunt) has to lead her family away from the ruins of their home and search for help. She meets up with a fellow survivor and old family friend Emmett (Cillian Murphy), who’s been on his own for quite a while. They discover signs that there might be a community of survivors nearby.
Evelyn’s daughter Regan (Millicent Simmonds) is determined to find them so that she can share the key discovery the family made at the end of the first film – one that might tip the balance in the continuing day-to-day struggle to survive against the monsters. But with a newborn to care for, the group is forced to split up, with Regan and Emmett searching for the other survivors, while the rest hang back and try to not die. As a result, the story is less focused and not as affecting this time around, with a lot more moving parts to keep track of. That, plus the addition of a lengthy flashback intro, however neat, leaves less time for character development in the present.
Simmonds’ Regan was a scene-stealing presence in the first movie and she continues to shine in the second, and partnering her with Murphy’s Emmett works very well – even if the latter’s tragic backstory isn’t allowed the time to be properly explored, the dynamic between the characters is engrossing in itself.
There’s at least one part where a character does something dumb for seemingly no good reason. That, in turn, attracts the monsters and triggers a cascade of terrible things – it’s a basic horror trope that’s been overdone and feels like a lazy way to stir up tension. What really sinks the sequel however, is the baffling decision to repeatedly show off the monsters in full view, and mostly in plain daylight.
If there was a weak element to the first movie, it was the creature design of the monsters. Not that it was bad, but it wasn’t anything particularly noteworthy either. It was purely functional and the movie was smart enough to keep the creatures heavily obscured for the most part, which worked efficiently to build tension and suspense. In A Quiet Place Part II however, the choice to keep the creatures out of the shadows severely limits their scare factor. Regardless of design, seeing them so often normalises them to the audience, which works against the film’s interest.
The creatures also don’t get any upgrades – no distinctive new abilities or new variants like, say, a Big Queen Monster à la Aliens. The only thing new about them this time around is the reveal of another major weakness, which again, makes them less of a threat and therefore lessens the ante.
That’s not to say there are no moments of tension or effective scares in A Quiet Place Part II. A standout scene sees Regan clamber through a window while a monster lurks mere feet away. The camera closely follows her foot as it blindly navigates a minefield of everyday objects set on a table, any one of which could get knocked over and seal her death. It’s just that, compared to how truly anxiety-inducing the original was, the sequel is a noticeable downgrade. The same can be said for the climax, which tries but fails to recreate the fist-pumping excitement of the first film’s finale.
No one expected Krasinski to deliver two home runs in a row – the original was such a high bar that a not-quite-as-good-but-still-enjoyable follow-up would have been completely acceptable. Sadly for all, A Quiet Place Part II is just disappointing.
P.S. Looping a Bobby Darin song on a radio broadcast, classic or otherwise, is one of the most nonsensical ways you could try and get people to find your community of survivors.
A Quiet Place Part II releases in cinemas June 3rd.