IN CINEMAS NOW
RUNNING TIME: 97 mins
REVIEWED BY: Dr Lenera
The Abbott family have been desperately trying to survive in a terrifying new world where vicious alien monsters who may not be able to see but who can certainly hear are ruling the roost. Lee, the father, is killed but at least there’s some glimmer of hope now that a way to keep the creatures at bay has been discovered – the sound from daughter Regan’s hiring aid. With the family house set alight, the Abbotts set off to hopefully find some other survivors of this invasion. They soon come across Emmet, a friend of Lee’s who’d been living a reasonably safe life in isolation until this family came along and who therefore isn’t particularly welcoming. However, a sign that humankind does indeed exist elsewhere sends Regan off on a perilous journey….
So we ended A Quiet Place with the Abbotts, minus the father, finally tipping the scales with the discovery that Regan’s hearing aid reacted to the proximity of the creatures by emitting a high-frequency sound which distresses and repels them, rather suddenly followed by the end credits. And so, much like Halloween 2, this second part continues exactly where the first left off, apart from an opening scene which goes back in time to when this alien invasion began. In fact Halloween 2 makes for a useful comparison, seeing as not only was it also set on The Night He Came Home but also essentially did the same things as its predecessor did, only becoming a bit bigger, and not really adding anything of value to the overall story apart from that familial twist which I’ve always rather liked but which seems to divide fans. The main hospital setting was more expansive than that dark house, but that worked against the fear somewhat, with Michael Myers less scary than when he mostly kept in the shadows. Here, the creatures are upfront throughout and are given larger set pieces to take part in, but some of the terror is lessened as a result. But Halloween 2 is still a good sequel and I always end up following a viewing of Halloween with it no matter how late at night or early in the morning it is; the two films join together really well. And I imagine that A Quiet Place 1 and 2 would do as well as long as you moved the first ten minutes of the second to a later point in the film. There were times where I began to sigh because writer/director Joseph Krasinski was basically giving us what he gave us before but in a more opened out fashion. Yet my sighs usually quickly came to a close because what he was giving us was still working.
So we begin with seeing how it all began. An opening shot of a virtually empty main street is already ominous until we cut to Lee Abbott going into a shop, and isn’t this a neat way for Krasinski to put himself in this movie even though he was killed at the end of the last one? A TV reveals that some disaster is befalling Shanghai, but that’s really far away, isn’t it? We cut to a school baseball game at which many of the townsfolk are present, including the Abbotts, whose youngest son Marcus is one of the boys who are taking part. We feel uneasy because we remember how any noise was a Bad Thing in the first film, though everyone seems happy and enjoying themselves until, mid-game, bewildered spectators look skyward as a flaming object slowly hurtles towards them. People exit the park and try to drive away, and the sudden shock of a car being thrown, a rather crappy CGI one to be honest, introduces these alien monsters. People are pounced on followed by lots of hiding and stalking as well as use of one of the first film’s most effective devices – the removal of any sound because we’re experiencing the action with the ears of the deaf Regan. Even though gore is avoided, there’s a hell of a lot of intensity here without going for that trendy [though it’s becoming less trendy which is most definitely a good sign] hyper fast editing or sick-inducing ‘shakycam’ so you can’t actually see what’s happening properly. We also get a clear indication of what this sequel is going to give us; more of the same but bigger and louder, with a budget that’s around three times higher than that of the previous film being immediately put to good use. This will definitely be a thrill ride, though it may be slightly less interesting than the one we took before. The Abbotts are initially split up, with mother Evelyn frantically driving around with the two boys while Lee has to hide with Regan, but eventually reunite and drive off – and then it’s back to the present!
The house is burning and father is dead, so it’s time for the family to leave home and try to find somewhere safer to base themselves, reassured slightly by the fact that we now have this thing that can hold the creatures at bay, which seemingly gives them a terrible headache which makes them far more easy to shoot dead -and yes, that seems as quickly thought up a device as it did before – surely Krasinski could have thought up something more interesting and original? Particular sounds have repelled and even killed alien visitors before, from those pesky villains from Planet X being conveniently vulnerable to the noise made by an inventor’s personal alarm in the Godzilla adventure Invasion Of Astro-Monster to invaders from Mars finding that the singing of Slim Whitman is lethal to them in Mars Attacks, though to be fair that’s probably lethal to some Earth folk too. Of course the idea of the one person who can’t hear the monsters nor anything else having the means to keep them at bay does have some neatness about it in – what you can’t hear can’t harm you – but it never satisfied me. Anyway, the Abbotts set off, barefoot so they make far less noise, bringing along a portable guitar amplifier and microphone which, when hooked up to Regan’s hearing aid, can fend off the creatures. Upon entering a fenced-off area, not only are they being watched by someone but Marcus is suddenly caught in a bear trap, and by god Noah Jupe makes us feel his character’s horrendous pain. His subsequent screams attract a creature, but using the hearing aid and shotgun, Regan and Evelyn kill it, then free Marcus. The family flees into an abandoned steel foundry and are saved from another creature by a mysterious man.
Said man turns out to be Emmett, a friend of Lee’s who we briefly met in the first scene. He reluctantly takes them to his bunker under the foundry, where Marcus and Regan discover a radio station signal that plays the song ‘Beyond the Sea’ on a loop. Regan determines that it’s a clue meant to lead survivors to a radio tower on a nearby island, and theorises that if she can reach the radio tower, the high-frequency noise can be transmitted to other survivors who can use it against the creatures. After telling Marcus her plan, she secretly ventures out alone to find the island, something her mother is not pleased about at all when she finds out. She persuades Marcus to go and get her, which is a well written if predictable scene, but I don’t buy it that the highly intelligent Regan would go off on her own like this, nor that Marcus would join her on her mission. I don’t buy it even more that Marcus goes against physical pain, his defined personality, common sense and task of watching a baby to go and investigate his surrounds, for no reason in particular. Nonetheless, It’s here, in the middle part of the film, where we get its best sequence, a sequence where three different subplots involving three characters or sets of characters who get into danger are linked together in superb editing which gets increasingly frantic without ever becoming confusing, the transitions remaining smooth and often very well chosen. This is undoubtedly Krasinski’s best piece of direction so far, though of course editor Michael P. Shawyer should also be credited for this exceptional portion of cinema which really will have you on the edge of your seat!
Having people split up for long durations means that the theme of family is weaker, seemingly replaced by “every man for himself”, though the journey of Emmet, who begins to care for others again, adds a bit of emotional depth without ever becoming a major component, and one can see Regan and Marcus trying to be like their father. Subtext is virtually non-existent because the film has been designed purely as a machine, and that’s fine even if one begins to wish that some reasonably original ideas would materialise. The first film had its high concept to see it through, but now we’re used to said concept. Questions increasingly materialise, revealing that Krasinski, who wrote the screenplay for this one on his own unlike Part One where he worked with two others, isn’t much bothered by logic as long as he can create exciting set pieces. Some bad guys attempt a kidnapping which is a bit daft seeing as everyone is best off keeping quiet. These people live on a dock yet don’t know that the monsters can’t swim, something that would surely be bleeding obvious if a boat was used just once. Another group of people have no guns whatsoever despite the unsafe times they’re living in. And, come to think of it, did this message which takes the form of a song need to be so cryptic? Still, we frequently get a thrill sequence coming along; the overall pacing is superb, Krasinski knowing exactly when the audience needs a breather. There are some extremely well timed jump scares, one of which even ‘got’ me, though less of those nail bitingly tense scenes where there’s little or no sound; in their place are large action pieces, less M. Night Shayamalan, more James Cameron, though Steven Spielberg remains the major influence. Krasinski handles everything well, and I like the way we often pan out from characters to reveal where they are rather than having a cut do the job, though I’m not sure that he really has a particular style. He’s good at what he’s doing though, which is enough.
Performances are totally spot on as before, though Emily Blunt, Noah Jupp and Millicent Simmons don’t get as much of a chance to act off each other and show their joint chemistry as much as before. Still, Simmons is incredibly gifted in her acting skills while I’ve done enough praising of the absolutely awesome Emily Blunt in the past Cillian Murphy has one of his better roles of late and Djimon Hounsou has little to do again. Marco Beltrami’s music score is often again prominent in the sound mix and used a hell of a lot; I’d imagine some may find it to be piled on too much for a film set a time where music tends to be employed more subtly than it used to be, though some of us oldies wax wroth for the good old days when this was the norm. Generally about as good as a sequel as one sensibly has a right to expect though of course lacking much of the first film’s impact, A Quiet Place Part II still definitely does the business before stopping rather suddenly just like its predecessor did, and with far less of a dramatic revelation too, something that unfortunately reinforces the feeling that we’ve barely moved on from A Quiet Place; certainly, we’ve learnt hardly anything, even though we’ve done a bit more exploring. I guess they’re saving that for the third instalment which I assume won’t do a Halloween 3 on us.