Rating: 4 out of 5.

(Written by Allison Brown)

A Quiet Place II may not be as soft as the original (it comes in with jump scares, action, and suspense), but it is equally thrilling and worth the wait. John Krasinski’s stunning feature is best enjoyed in a theatre, as the surprise frights hit harder with booming, Dolby sound. This sequel focuses more on the apocalyptic nature of the world, over the first film’s depiction of one family’s struggle against the death angels. There are decaying dead bodies (now lone skeleton remnants), discarded heels left behind, and cars with doors strewn open abandoned on the road.

It opens on day 1, serving as a mini prequel to introduce us to Emmett (Cillian Murphy). Emmett and our starring family are only two of many attending a Millbrook Steelers game, where Marcus (Noah Jupe) is playing among others. A dog aggressively barking, radio static, and a loud explosion bring all eyes to the sky, where a dark cloud looms. Evelyn (Emily Blunt) and Marcus separate from Lee (John Krasinski) and Regan (Millicent Simmons) as they race to their cars. I was surprised, albeit overjoyed, to see Lee alive once again.

After many near-death crashes and overwhelming chaos in the street, Lee and Regan make it into what seems to be a bar or restaurant. This is where the characters discover that sound is the creature’s trigger. After an obvious escape, as the first movie all takes place months later, we cut to day 474 (two days after our previous time in this world). It is impressive that both films are able to keep you on the edge of your seat, despite playing out over the course of a few days. I do wish they spent more time in this segment, or that a prequel would be in the cards to dwell further on the genesis of the plot’s state of the world.

After the family reunites with their old friend Emmett, who initially turns them away from his factory dwelling, the true narrative begins to unfold. Upon discovering a left-behind clue from her father, an on-loop, broadcasted record of Bobby Darin’s Beyond the Sea sets Regan (and eventually Emmett) on a mission to see if there are other survivors. It was definitely a choice to have Regan journey on her own initially, and she really plays the role as a feminist character. She is strong, brave, and clever; this is fitting given her amplified hearing aid is the sole weakness of the creatures. It was also an interesting decision to allow Regan to speak (although obviously as a hearing-impaired individual). This facilitates communication, given Emmett’s lack of knowledge of sign language. Regan reminds Emmett that the only way she can understand him is if he “enunciate[s]…remember?” His only learned movement (after asking) is for the word “dive,” which later comes to play in a key moment of the film. On this adventure, they encounter evidence hinting at the survival of others, but humanity casts a dark shadow.

There are many scenes which serve as a callback to the original film. In one of my favorite action sequences, Evelyn shoots a tank of oxygen to explode into flames, which triggers building sprinklers. This is an allusion to the waterfall in the first film, as rushing water serves to muffle loud sounds. Another example is provided after Marcus gets his foot caught in a trap left by Emmett for the predators. Evelyn has to run to the pharmacy to get medical supplies to deal with Marcus’ pain and clean his wound before it gets infected. When her late child, Beau, is killed in the first few minutes of 2018’s A Quiet Place on day 89, the family is on the way back from the pharmacy. This trip was also primarily to get Marcus medication. In another tender moment, Evelyn returns to Beau’s grave site and leaves behind her wedding ring so it can serve to mourn Lee as well.

On day 1, Regan tells Lee not to touch her orange as his hands are too dirty. By day 474, the film constantly frames muddy, black, and dirty barefoot feet. This juxtaposition serves a defining example of before versus post apocalypse. The editing of shots portraying Marcus’ scenes protecting the baby, Evelyn’s trip to the pharmacy, and Emmett and Regan’s adventure to find others are also juxtaposed well. This device leaves you suspended in the height of the action, tuning out the real world around you. At some points, it is almost to an implausible level. They each show up just at the right time to save each other, yet other individuals (not the core four) are not as lucky. The pharmacy just happens to carry oxygen tanks when Evelyn’s supply for the baby is running low.

The reaction time of the aliens to sound is equally unbelievable in many moments. In the first, it is noted that a louder sound will drown out a quieter one. However, there are many sequences where there is a large discrepancy in response time. When someone is presenting as a danger, loud noise immediately draws the monster to kill. In another, Marcus is injured and screams uncontrollably, but somehow there is a significant amount of getaway time before the death angels appear. There are no background sounds to overshadow the yells, so it’s not really clear why this is a drastic left turn from the rules established by the original.

Overall, I think this film stands up equally to the first, and any preference is most likely due to personal taste. A Quiet Place II is definitely more of a horror movie than A Quiet Place, which presented more as a thriller. This is the most engaged I’ve been during a movie since I Care A Lot. It finds success in continuous action and less in the tension, though of course it is still very much present. There is more noise than quiet, and less partial shots of the creatures (more straightforward visuals). A captivating final image teases the possibility of a third film to come. This will leave many fans (myself included) craving more!

Stay silent! A Quiet Place II invades theatres nationwide on Friday, May 28, 2021.

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