When A Quiet Place silenced cinemas across the globe in terror and awe back in 2018, its creators never intended to release a follow up. Even when director and lead actor John Krasinski became fixated on the idea of reproducing the success of his directorial debut, he failed to inspire both Scott Beck and Bryan Woods to join him, two talented writers who were vital to the first installment and created the dystopian universe that Krasinski became obsessed with. Yet the director remained boldly undeterred, and although his recent endeavour fails to reach the revolutionary heights of the first film, A Quiet Place Part II is still excellent.
Woods and Beck were not alone in assuming that the first film, though ending on a cliff-hanger of sorts, might best be left as a standalone spectacle. I adored A Quiet Place, eagerly dedicating an entire Cult Column piece to it years after its initial release. I firmly believe it is one of the greatest horror films of modern times, as it dexterously manipulated our senses and toys with our heartstrings to ensure it was as moving as it is terrifying, a masterclass in the genre that showed mainstream horror can be both emotive and innovative.
I was anxious as the opening credits rolled, and not because of that moment of realisation that horror cinemagoers are intimately familiar with, when you process that you have just paid to subject yourself to hours of terror on the big screen to satisfy the adrenaline junkie that lives somewhere in all of us. This was a fear of bitter disappointment, made more palpable by the fact that Covid-19 ensured the film’s release has been repeatedly delayed.
Thankfully, A Quiet Place Part II lives up to the hype. It’s more of the same, but when the original was so extraordinarily innovative, that is no bad thing.
The ever-listening beasts that haunt this dystopian world are back and are as scary as ever. Krasinski again takes the long standing trope of horror cinema sound design, wherein noises from the environment are privileged in the mix to make them unnaturally loud and combines it with his monsters to truly twist our senses. Our own ears turn against us as we wince and squirm in our seat at even the softest sounds. It remains a powerful and immersive way to set the hearts of audiences racing, particularly as so much of this installment focuses on the hard of hearing Regan, expertly played by Millicent Simmonds whose eyes alone can detail a profound sense of suffering and loss. Sequences wherein we can hear the approaching beasts and the subtle noises that summon them, and a character we have grown immensely close to cannot, is again a brilliant way to drag audiences to the edge of their seats – particularly when a disturbing score punctuates the oppressive silence that engulfs this unique dystopian universe.
Whilst he regularly relies on these same brilliant techniques that made the first installment, Krasinski is forced to alter his craft this time around. The mystery that surrounds the deadly creatures, who in the first film we often only caught glimpses of prior to a dramatic closing sequence, has dissipated in Part II. We are now all too familiar with their razor-sharp claws and twisted limbs, their lightning speed and snapping jaws.
Yet making use of an expanded budget, Part II is stacked with scenes of terror and mayhem, fully showcasing the destructive power of these monsters as they rip through crowds with breath-taking ease. Calculated cinematography and convincing performances from an expanded cast mean that the horror and unrivalled excitement is still there, even if that sense of mystery simply can’t be.
While these action sequences are welcome due to excellent execution, a reliance on them may have contributed to issues that prevent the film from reaching the dizzying heights of the first film. The pacing is fast. Really fast. Though the daring decision to repeatedly cut between the perspective of different characters as they battle the monsters again threatens to make the audience collapse into adrenaline induced terror just like in Krasinski’s 2018 debut, something is missing here.
The first film didn’t just make our hearts beat quickly. It broke them. We weren’t just scared by the monsters, the music, the haunting sounds, and precious silence. We were terrified that those characters who we had watched grow together, who we witnessed being determined to live their lives despite all the odds, would be ripped away from us.
Part II lacks the melancholic intimacy of its predecessor, undoubtedly diminished by a noticeable absence of scenes such as a besieged couple slowly swaying to Neil Young’s Harvest Moon with a headphone in each ear and their bodies intertwined. While the first film took the time to develop its characters’ importance before building up to an explosive finale, the rapid pacing of the second means it never pauses to take a breath and is instead an unnaturally prolonged explosion right from the beginning. Yes, Part II is scary and grips its audience in the same sort of physical terror established through the manipulation of our own sight and hearing. Yet it doesn’t torment us emotionally to the same extent and is thus inevitably less impactful.
Still, there is no shame in not creating a modern horror classic two times on the bounce. A Quiet Place Part II still easily earns four stars and is well worth seeing, particularly if you are yet to return to the big screen and enjoy subjecting yourself to psychological torment. Krasinski again proves that he is a master at that, and looks set to continue an excellent fledgling career.