Emily Blunt and family in A Quiet Place Part II

‘A Quiet Place Part II’ Review: Gnarly Horror Sequel is Louder, Meaner

The opening credits for A Quiet Place Part II don’t appear until after a lengthy prologue that takes audiences back to Day 1 of the ongoing alien invasion. Small town Americana respite gives way to extraterrestrial chaos as the Abbott family – including resurrected patriarch Lee (John Krasinski) in a bit cameo – dive, dodge, and ultimately elude their sonic invaders, somewhat inexplicably aware that noise equals death.

Soon thereafter, specks of sand sprinkle across a black screen and “A Quiet Place” appears. It soon dissolves, replaced by crimson text reading, “Part II.” That, in part, exemplifies what the weakest elements of John Krasinski’s follow-up to his 2018 blockbuster, genre-bending smash feel like — a part two. In its worst moments, those that retread what the first had already done (and done considerably better), A Quiet Place Part II feels less like a story the filmmakers needed to tell and more like one they simply chose to tell.

Picking up immediately after the first film, the surviving members of the Abbott clan, including matriarch Evelyn (Emily Blunt), resourceful daughter Regan (Millicent Simmonds), scaredy-cat son Marcus (Noah Jupe), and, yes, that uncredited baby, must flee their farm in search of, well, something. The early goings never make it entirely clear what the family hopes to find beyond their homestead, and though they are ostensibly tracking other survivors by means of Lee’s smoke signal system, it feels very contrived, narrative means to the story Krasinski (who has sole screenwriting credit here) really wants to tell.

These early set-pieces, beyond one truly shocking (and sensationally gory) bit involving a hidden bear trap, feel like louder, more fervent mimics of the first film’s organic tension. There’s little build-up, with seductive suspense replaced by more creatures, more screaming, and lots and lots more running.

Luckily, the Abbotts are soon taken in by old neighbour, Emmett (Cillian Murphy), and the “Part II,” much as it did in the opening credits, fades away. Characters are separated, tension mounts and the full scope of Krasinski’s vision comes into focus. Moving onward, A Quiet Place Part II remains just as good — and at times even just a little bit better — than the first. Granted, there’s nothing that quite matches the sheer, visceral terror of Emily Blunt’s bathtub birthing, but Kransinki makes clever use of both ambient sound and scenery to rescript the rules of both his world and the horror genre writ large.

Millicent Simmonds is wisely given more screen time, and A Quiet Place Part II truly belongs to her. Bereaved over the death of her father — and saddled with some heavy guilt– Simmonds’s Regan feels compelled to assume his role, repeatedly making bold, risky decisions to ensure her family’s survival. Paired with Murphy’s Emmett for most of the movie, the dyad is an unexpected but welcome one. The camaraderie they develop is genuine and happens in unspoken ways, conveyed by looks and actions– despite what the trailers have suggested, A Quiet Place Part II is (thankfully) only marginally talkier than the first. It imbues the movie with a big, beating heart, one that unconventionally matches the pathos of the original.

The scares, however, are louder and bigger. Stairway nails and corn silos are yesterday’s news. A Quiet Place Part II is all about seeing fields of hapless citizenry mowed down and enigmatic Appalachian cults stalking the docks of the movie’s ill-defined New York setting. The creatures are smarter, slicker, and more aggressive than the first– they’re also scarier. Much, much scarier.

The jump scares are only occasionally deployed, but they remain highly effective. The violence, too, is amplified, with A Quiet Place Part II almost gleeful in its interest in showing maimed legs, broken bodies, and flayed flesh. It’s all very Grand Guignol refracted through Krasinski’s lens of mass appeal, but it works nonetheless.

Unfortunately, as senseless as the opening act is, A Quiet Place Part II stumbles over its ending, concluding with an almost offensive promise for more. It’s not The Devil Inside bad, but it’s pretty close. An additional minute, even, would have been sufficient to tie things up, though in looking to emulate the indefinite finality of the first’s Blunt shotgun cock– truly one of the last decade’s most memorable images — A Quiet Place Part II feels incomplete. Just as John Krasinski introduces the movie in a pre-recorded bit of cinephile gratitude, I imagine something similar was planned for the ending — just hand over your money for Part III now.

Nonetheless, though it stumbles in fits and spurts, A Quiet Place Part II is ultimately a welcome return to one of this century’s most distinct apocalypses. A shaky introduction proves illusory. A Quiet Place Part II is just as fresh, terrifying, and heartfelt as the first. The movie might be quiet, but audiences will be screaming at the top of their lungs. I guarantee it.

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