Review: A Quiet Place Part 2 is a sequel that was worth the wait
Hush, hush —
Paramount, director John Krasinski opted to shelve the movie until theaters reopened
It’s been a long road for Paramount’s A Quiet Place Part 2, the much-anticipated sequel to 2018’s surprise sci-fi/horror hit A Quiet Place. Originally slated to hit theaters last March, the sequel even had an official premiere, but the COVID-19 pandemic forced shutdowns all over the country mere days before the planned theatrical release. Paramount and director John Krasinski opted to shelve the movie until theaters reopened rather than releasing it on demand.
A Quiet Place Part 2 is finally here, and it was well worth the wait. It’s a powerful continuation of the original story that retains all the aspects that worked in its predecessor while exploring new themes and character development.
(Spoilers for 2018’s A Quiet Place below; mild spoilers for Part 2, but no major reveals.)
As I wrote last year, the original A Quiet Place had a simple premise: sightless extraterrestrial creatures have wiped out most of the humans on Earth. They hunt by sound thanks to their hypersensitive hearing, and they’re difficult to kill because they sport a tough armored skin. (The creature’s design was inspired by animal echolocation, prehistoric fish, and the infamous bog people—mummified bodies found in the bogs of Northern Europe in particular. They look a bit like the Dementors from the Harry Potter films.)
The film centered on a family struggling to survive a few months after the initial invasion. Lee Abbott (Krasinski) is an engineer focused on keeping his family alive each day. His wife Evelyn (Emily Blunt) is a doctor who is pregnant with their fourth child. Eldest daughter Regan is deaf; she is played by deaf actress Millicent Simmonds, who helped teach the rest of the cast American Sign Language, since that’s how the Abbotts communicate when out in the open. Then there are her brothers: Marcus (Noah Jupe) and four-year-old Beau (Cade Woodward), who is tragically killed early on by a creature, devastating the entire family (and the audience).
Eventually, the family figures out the aliens’ weak spot: The high-pitched frequencies emitted by Regan’s cochlear implant are extremely painful and disorienting to the creatures, who let down their plate armor in response, making it possible to kill them. Lee sacrifices himself to save his family—another devastating loss for a family already grieving the death of Beau. The film ended with Evelyn, Regan, and Marcus armed and ready for an approaching pair of creatures.
Krasinski originally intended A Quiet Place to be a one-off, standalone film, but it was a critical and box office hit. The film ultimately grossed $340 million globally against a modest $17 million budget. That was a good incentive to think about how one might expand the fictional universe for a sequel, but Krasinski was adamant that he didn’t want to set up a franchise. Instead, he was more interested in how to organically expand the storytelling. And he felt the best method was to shift the focus to the surviving Abbott children, Regan and Marcus, as they are forced to step up to the deadly threat the aliens still pose.
Per the official synopsis: “Following the deadly events at home, the Abbott family must now face the terrors of the outside world as they continue their fight for survival in silence. Forced to venture into the unknown, they quickly realize that the creatures that hunt by sound are not the only threats that lurk beyond the sand path.”
Blunt, Simmonds, and Jupe all reprise their original roles, with Cillian Murphy joining the cast as Emmett, a former family friend who lost his pregnant wife and two sons and has pretty much become a bitter hermit. Krasinski returns as director but doesn’t star in the sequel (given that his character died in the first film). But he does appear in the film’s opening flashback sequence, showing us what happened on the day the aliens arrived. The original film began in medias res over a month after the invasion.
One reason the original A Quiet Place was so effective was Krasinski’s directorial discipline: he set up the basic ground rules and kept the focus tightly on the family members as they tried to carry on living in near-silence without attracting the attention of hungry alien monsters. He shows the same discipline here, even though the film’s focus splits into two separate plot threads. Regan thinks she knows how to help other survivors defend themselves against the predators, and Emmett reluctantly joins her mission. Meanwhile, Evelyn and Marcus must keep the new baby safe and quiet (via a pretty clever means) while waiting for Regan and Emmett to return.
Emily Blunt’s performance is extraordinary, as is Murphy’s. But it’s Simmonds and Jupe who really shine, effectively portraying the vulnerability and fear of kids on the verge of adolescence. Again and again, these two must find the inner strength carry on despite their youth. I look forward to seeing more of these talented young actors in future projects.
The original film was nominated for an Oscar for sound editing, and deservedly so. Sound was used to build suspense—the soft crunch of bare feet on sand, for instance, as the family crept along a path to get supplies—and extremely effective jump scares. And most scenes showing Regan’s perspective went silent altogether to convey her deafness, and she often intuited when something horrible was happening from the expressions on her parents’ faces. Krasinski wisely resisted the urge to one-up the sound design and editing with A Quiet Place Part 2, instructing his crew to avoid “trying to be cool” and instead just follow the basic rules set up by its predecessor. Those rules are just as effective the second time around.
The first film was very much about struggling to survive in the wake of sudden, unfathomable loss. The sequel sees the surviving members of the Abbott family trying to process their sadness and move on—eventually inspiring the grief-stricken Emmett to do the same. Both A Quiet Place and A Quiet Place Part 2 end rather abruptly. Sure, they end at sensible stopping points, but there’s still plenty of storytelling Krasinski could do in the compelling world he has created. I’d love to see the story become a trilogy, with a third installment exploring the logical narrative and thematic next steps. Just don’t make the Abbotts suffer yet another tragic loss. I’m not sure my heart could take it.
A Quiet Place Part 2 is now playing in select theaters. For those who are fully vaccinated and comfortable venturing back to theaters, this movie is well worth seeing on the big screen. For those who aren’t, the film will premiere on Paramount+ in 45 days on July 12.
Listing image by YouTube/Paramount