Horror sequels are rarely very good. In fact, it’s hard to make a sequel in general that manages to live up to the legacy of the previous film. So, when it was announced that a follow up to one of 2018’s best mainstream movies “A Quiet Place” was in the works I’ll admit I was a little skeptical. That didn’t stop it from being one of my most anticipated movies of 2020….until it became one of the first films to be rescheduled due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Over a year later John Krasinski’s self-written and directed follow up has finally hit the big screen and thank God it was worth the wait. Starring the same cast as the previous film including Emily Blunt, Millicent Simmonds, Noah Jupe and Krasinski reprising his role in flashbacks as well as franchise newcomer Cillian Murphy, “A Quiet Place Part II” picks up immediately after the events of the first movie and follows the remainder of the Abbott family as they journey into the larger world of the post-apocalyptic United States. “A Quiet Place Part II” proves to be a rare sequel with inspired purpose that expands on its world, and, in some ways, is even more entertaining and scary than its already brilliant predecessor.
“A Quiet Place Part II” does a lot to add to the foundation laid by the first movie taking the action beyond the confines of a single farm into the larger world virtually destroyed by the relentless hearing-sensitive alien species. Krasinski, who this time serves as both writer and director taking over for previous writers Bryan Woods and Scott Beck, makes a smart decision to stick to the small-scale personality of the first movie while also making this film feel so much bigger. We get to see not only how the alien invasion began through early film flashbacks but also what the world has become while the Abbotts were living on their farm. Because of this the stakes and risks feel so much bigger. We are learning the extent of the world’s and society’s deterioration along with the Abbotts so the surprises and horrors that await them are just as shocking to them as they are to us. We get to see that some people in the post-apocalyptic world have lost their minds while others settle into a false sense of security and even others fall somewhere in between. I found myself comparing it positively to “The Last of Us” video games as it does so much to explore this run-down reality while telling a very character-focused narrative. Overall, this movie feels like a true experience where we and the characters are discovering, exploring and learning about this new reality at the same time. When we see a commuter train destroyed by the aliens we feel the same surprise as the Abbotts. As with any good horror movie what we don’t see is as terrifying as what we do see so considering how something happened feels just as spooky and not knowing what’s going to happen next.
As with the first movie, “Part II” has a very small cast, albeit still much bigger than its predecessor. Emily Blunt, Millicent Simmonds and Noah Jupe return as the surviving Abbotts but this time they’re joined by Cillian Murphy’s Emmett, an old friend of the family who is distrustful of other survivors. Each of these characters get their own chance to shine in the story including one segment in the second act where every single one of them has a different conflict they have to overcome all at the same time with their battles intercut brilliantly to keep the tension high. However, it’s Millicent Simmonds’ Regan who takes center stage as the true main character of the film. Simmonds, who you may remember is a real-life deaf person, goes on a quest to reach a radio station on an island to use the station to broadcast the feedback caused by her earpiece that proved to be a weakness for the aliens in the previous film. Joined by Emmett, Regan’s journey forces her to be brave and take risks like her father while Emmett’s own cowardice is challenged as he follows her on her mission. Meanwhile Emily Blunt’s Evelyn has to take a risk to keep her other children alive without her husband there to help while Noah Jupe’s Marcus must also face his own fears as he tries to live up to his father as well. Lee’s shadow is always present as every major character’s growth in some way recalls how Lee made sacrifices and chose bravery over cowardice to protect his family, but his overarching spiritual presence never overshadows the story at hand. All of this combines to create a narrative that feels active and keeps the heart of the franchise intact despite lacking the fatherly figure in physical form. It all feels like a brilliant expansion of the franchise that is both reserved and aggressive, taking risks while also never forgetting what made the original movie so charming and enjoyable.
Best of all, aside from its engaging story and worldbuilding, “A Quiet Place Part II” ups the ante by being even scarier than the original. This sequel does a neat thing where it shifts between complete silence and audible sound making jump scares and small background observations that much more effective and frightening. I was on edge almost the entire film waiting to see what would happen or if something I couldn’t hear or see would break the tension and startle me. When it did I found myself unnerved for a while and when something didn’t happen I still felt on edge because i knew there was more to come. Even just the addition of Emmett, a cowardly world-weary man who joins Regan on her potentially perilous mission, created some fun tension for me because the whole film I waited to see if he was one of the good people or one of those mad survivors he himself feared. I won’t spoil which one he turns out to be but it’s worth pointing out that the distrust Emmett feels for the world around him bleeds off the screen and seeps into the viewer giving you this lasting impression that nothing is as safe as it seems and that, in this world, trust no longer exists between the survivors. This is how you create great post-apocalyptic fiction, by delving into the real-life insecurities and fears that one might feel in a world ravaged by the unknown and where people have had to evolve in sometimes brutal new ways to survive. “A Quiet Place Part II” knows how to get under your skin and use your senses against you, including our fight or slight mechanisms, choosing perfect moments to startle us out of a false sense of security without watering down the thrills still to come.
“A Quiet Place Part II” is something truly special. A spectacular and brilliant sequel to an already awesome sci-fi horror film, “Part II” is composed of great acting and writing and its effective use of sound, or the lack thereof, and worldbuilding helps create a terrifying and engrossing continuation to the “Quiet Place” lore. The actors, both new and old to the series, are fully invested in this story properly and Krasinski himself provides an inspired and expansive continuation of a film he himself admitted he wanted to be a one-off movie. Immersive, suspenseful, thrilling and effectively frightening “A Quiet Place Part II” may just be the best mainstream movie I’ve seen so far in 2021 and is a perfect follow-up to one of 2018’s finest films. If there is any movie that should get you back out to the big screen make it this excellent piece of cross-genre filmmaking that proves sometimes sequels are necessary to fully explore the potential of even the greatest cinematic works.