Of all the ways of approaching a sequel to a hit movie, perhaps the most common is the Aliens approach: keeping the concept, the world, and the spirit of the original alive, but increasing the scope and dialling everything up to eleven. Numerous film follow-ups have adopted this model over the years with varying results, and the latest to enter the club is A Quiet Place Part 2, John Krasinski’s sequel to his hit 2018 horror flick. The film was originally intended for release way back in March 2020 – and indeed the posters have been emblazoned on buses ever since – but now finally arrives in cinemas roughly 15 months later.
Set predominantly in the immediate aftermath of the first film, the sequel expands the world by introducing some new locations and characters – including a bearded Cillian Murphy – while making sure all the action, peril, and tension is bigger, deeper, and more frightening than the first time around. What follows is an enjoyable if flawed follow-up that makes for a neat continuation of the story, one best enjoyed on as big a screen, if possible, along with a rapt cinema audience.
After opening with a brief – and brilliantly staged – flashback sequence to the origins of the alien apocalypse, the sequel picks up with the surviving members of the Abbott clan (including their infant son) as they embark on a hazardous journey to find a replacement for their destroyed base. On the way, son Marcus (Noah Jupe) picks up a nasty, wince-inducing foot injury and help of sorts arrives in the form of Emmett, (the aforementioned Murphy) an acquaintance from the before times who has lost his entire family to the monsters and has turned a touch cynical as a result. From this point, the film divides into two separate, simultaneous storylines, and it’s here where it at once excels and slightly flounders – with the two segments sometimes brilliantly coalescing but often allowing a sense of unevenness to take hold.
The better of the two storylines concerns a venture made by the deaf Abbott daughter Reagan (Millicent Simmonds) who, after cracking a coded signal decides to make the solo quest to an island community, where she intends to transmit the high-frequency noise from her hearing aid in a bid to keep the monsters at bay. (As you’ll no doubt remember from the first film, the creatures are made vulnerable by the high pitch screech emitted from the aid.) After escaping under cover of darkness, Reagan is pursued by Emmett and the two eventually team up, fighting off a bunch of feral humans in the process. From beginning to end, Simmonds is the film’s stand-out – it’s a wise, tenacious performance from the young star, and there are some nice moments between her and Murphy which touch on themes as varied as communication, coming of age, and grieving.
The second storyline is more straightforward and less effective, following Evelyn and Marcus as they attempt to hold the fort and keep the infant safe, with Evelyn forced to fight off one of the beasts after accidentally knocking over some objects while fetching medical supplies. This dual-narrative approach leads to some effective cross-cutting sequences between the two concurrent climaxes but most of the time when the focus is on the B-plot you’ll find yourself itching to return to Emmett and Reagan’s storyline. Blunt – who was so brilliant in the first film – is largely relegated to a supporting role and although she’s still impressive in the moments she’s given to shine, it would have been nice for the two stories to have been a little more balanced. Meanwhile, one of Krasinski’s more brave directorial decisions is to end the film so abruptly – it cuts to black as soon as it becomes clear that Reagan has been successful in her quest, which I found a little bizarre, with the sudden ending depriving the audience of a more satisfying denouement.
A Quiet Place Part 2 is a fairly simple survival tale and there’s not a huge amount going on under the surface but I’m not convinced that matters a whole lot. For all of Krasinski’s musings about “elevated horror”, the first film always felt more like an effective genre exercise, a well-crafted B-movie, than anything much deeper – and the second continues in that mode, only on a bigger canvas. But Krasinski is so assured in crafting moments of real tension and so skilled in his command of sound that this can be marked as another triumph for the writer/director – one complete with a star-making turn from Simmonds.