It has been a long time since Hollywood served up a story so richly centered around and empowering of a deaf character. It has been even longer since that character was played by a deaf actress. However, both things are happening in John Krasinski's A Quiet Place II, an unnecessary sequel that suddenly feels very necessary.
The Abbott family returns. Of course, they are minus one though that one's spirit, and occasional presence, looms large over everything that unfolds in this less fresh yet equally exhilarating and thrilling sequel. Following the deadly events at their home, the Abbott family is now forced to venture into a world unknown even though we all know it's going to be equally threatening and equally menacing. The creatures that we've already learned hunt by sound are not the only threats in this strange new world.
There's humanity itself.
While A Quiet Place largely centered itself around the parents, Lee (Krasinski) and Evelyn (Emily Blunt), there's a different story to be told here and A Quiet Place II practically demands that Millicent Simmonds' Regan become the center of attention. Simmonds, the undeniable breakout star from the original film, is more than up to the task in only her third feature film to date. She's an actress who demands to be reckoned with and an actress who deserves to have a long Hollywood career front-and-center.
Simmonds wears Regan's grief on her sleeve while becoming the family's protector. A Quiet Place II presents itself this weekend into a world more paranoid after a year made quiet by masks and quarantines and conspiracies real and imagined. This is a film that begs to be seen on the big screen where Krasinski's even fiercer and bolder scares can be brought vividly to life. There are some films that simply demand the communal moviegoing experience.
A Quiet Place II is one of those films.
It feels weird to so passionately call a PG-13 rated film a horror film. A Quiet Place II is less about blood n' guts and more about the things that horrify us in everyday life.
Or at least everyday life when aliens are involved.
A Quiet Place II was originally slated for March 2020. We all know what got in its way - a virus that turned practically every movie theatre in America into a quiet place.
I hear life.
A Quiet Place ended with a family in grief and valuable knowledge having been obtained around Regan's cochlear implant. In this film, Evelyn, Regan, and brother Marcus (Noah Jupe) head out into the world in search of a safe place. They discover Emmett (Cillian Murphy), a neighbor whose family has been decimated by the events that unfolded and who, somewhat reluctantly, joins them as they go off in search of the source of a mysterious "Beyond the Sea" broadcast that Regan is convinced holds meaning about survivors.
The events that unfolded more mysteriously in A Quiet Place are brought more vividly to life here. Krasinski wisely seeks to avoid the R-rating here. While the film isn't graphic in terms of imagery, the thrills and chills are the stuff of nightmares. Unsurprisingly, silence is essential here and Krasinski's use of silence builds up the atmosphere while drawing us in to Regan's world even more fully. Polly Morgan's immersive 35mm lensing feels emotionally enveloping while Jess Gonchor's production design leaves us in a jarring state of awe and grief. Marco Beltrami's melancholy tones and emotionally vulnerable original score refuses to let us go.
However, it must once again be stated that A Quiet Place II is Millicent Simmonds' motion picture as it should be. This is a coming-of-age story meets horror/sci-fi thriller with Emily Blunt's Evelyn essential but taking a back seat as her children respond to grief and challenge in different yet equally vital ways. Simmonds' Regan rises to the challenges placed in front of her. Noah Jupe's Marcus? Well, not so much.
A Quiet Place II is not as fresh a film. That would be impossible. The central concept is known and many of the mysteries have been revealed. Yet, Krasinski trusts that material so implicitly that in place of that freshness he brings real life, real family, real grief, and a real world in which the Abbott family must now live. It's the perfect way to handle this unnecessary sequel made necessary.
Written by Richard Propes
The Independent Critic