A Less Than Timely 'A Quiet Place Part II' Review (and the Context Surrounding It)
A bonus review from the pre-history of The Reveal
When Scott and I started planning the project that would become The Reveal, we knew we wanted reviews to be part of it. I also knew that, despite past gigs in which reviews had been a big part of the workload, I was a bit rusty when it came to reviewing new movies. As a freelancer, most of my straight-up reviews have been of TV shows, usually for TV Guide. I felt out of practice. So, knowing we wouldn’t have this up and running for a while, I decided to get to work stretching those muscles that likely had atrophied.
Some weeks at The A.V. Club I would write four or five reviews, covering a mix of new movies, DVDs, and books. Thing is: reviews are often the hardest thing for a freelancer to place. That’s fine. The market is what the market is, and there are other ways to write meaningful criticism. Still, I love them, writing and reading them. I admire the simplicity of the assignment. Question: What did you think of this movie? Answer: Here’s a review.
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We have, traditionally, written reviews in third-person style and likely will keep that tradition going. But let me acknowledge here that going to see movies is a first-person experience. A Quiet Place Part II was the second film I saw after being fully vaccinated. (The first: Gunda, at Chicago’s beloved Music Box Theatre.) I was so, so grateful to be back in a theater — in this case, the neat, restored Davis Theater in Lincoln Square — that I could have been watching Kung Pow: Enter the Fist and I still would have been happy. (This my answer when my daughter asked of all the movies I’ve seen for work what was the worst?).
I was happy up to a point, anyway: the most notable off-screen moment came during the ten-minute or so stretch when a fellow moviegoer turned on the light on their phone and waved it around… searching for something? In celebration? Who knows? Finally, after biting my tongue much too long, I politely said, “Could you please turn off your light?”
It was a quiet place no more.
Anyway, here’s the review I wrote that night. If I had to give it a logline it would read something like “Sometimes a sequel is completely unnecessary but still incredibly welcome.” (You know what? I’m going to use something like that.” And, if nothing else, it was that. The world shut down just before the scheduled release date of the second A Quiet Place film. The film actually came out months later, just as the world was beginning to open up. And, for a few glorious weeks, it looked like it might stay open, and we might once again go to movies with abandon. This review missed that sweet, hopeful moment: thee uncertain future of movie theaters will undoubtedly be a recurring theme at The Reveal, as much as we’d like it not to be. A Quiet Place Part II can now be watched at home on Paramount Plus.
Review: A Quiet Place Part II
John Krasinski delivers an unnecessary but welcome sequel to a horror hit
[Warning: This review contains spoilers for A Quiet Place but remains vague about A Quiet Place Part II.]
When it arrived in theaters in the spring of 2018, John Krasinski’s A Quiet Place got drawn into a debate about what qualifies as “elevated horror,” a term used to describe… well, three years later, we still don’t know. Mocked more often than it was used in earnest, the term seems to have been coined to laud certain horror films as more thoughtful and artful than the average horror film. It was silly talk, ultimately. Horror has produced thoughtful, artful movies as long as the genre has existed. And when the film’s aren’t thoughtful and artful, that’s okay, too. Let’s not undersell the value of cheap thrills.
A Quiet Place had its fair share of those, too. Star Krasinski had worked as a writer and director in the indie world since his 2009 adaptation of David Foster Walace’s Brief Interviews with Hideous Men, but his first venture into horror revealed him as an accomplished stylist who knew how to stage a suspense sequence of pressure-cooker intensity. The script, co-written by Bryan Woods and Scott Beck then reworked by Krasinski, provides an inherently scary premise —What if the Earth had been taken over by blind aliens who hunt human prey via their incredible sense of hearing? — that the film relentlessly exploits, forcing its characters to exert superhuman effort to remain quiet or risk being ripped to shreds by creatures who live to hunt. A capable filmmaker would almost have to try to screw that up, and Krasinki over-delivered, directing with the assurance and intensity of someone who knows what he’s doing and has something to prove.
That first film also stirs immediate sympathy by focusing on a single family of survivors: dad Lee Abbott (Krasinski), pregnant mom Evelyn (Emily Blunt, Krasinski’s real-life wife), and their three (then two then three again) children, most significantly the teenaged Regan (Millicent Simmonds, a deaf actor playing a deaf character) and her younger brother Marcus (Noah Jupe). The scope is intimate. There’s no stirring speeches given by presidents shortly before stepping into a fighter plane here, just a mom and dad doing their best to keep their kids safe in a terrifying world. If it’s emotional investment and metaphorical resonance that elevates horror, then A Quiet Place has that in abundance.
Krasinski saw that mix of horror and family drama through to the bitter end, an end that, in truth, offered little suggestion that there was any more story to tell—and that if somehow there was more story, it would have to be told without Krasinki’s character. Unless, of course, the sequel were to feature a flashback.
Which this one does: A Quiet Place Part II opens with what the original left out: a depiction of what the initial invasion looked like, from the perspective of the Abbotts' unsuspecting, unprepared small town. It’s one of Part II’s three remarkable set pieces, which combine tomake it a gripping, satisfying sequel, albeit one that has no compelling reason to exist beyond offering variations on the original.
But maybe that’s okay. Blunt, Jupe, and especially Simmonds are all excellent as before, and Krasinski again shows he knows how to tighten the screws in tense scenes, and then tighten them some more. (One involving Marcus, his infant brother, and a dwindling oxygen supply plays like a nightmare that won’t stop intensifying.) Does it matter that the sequel feels a bit mechanical, however efficient the machine? Or that, seemingly because it’s exhausted the emotional journeys of the Abbott family (and has a John Krasinksi-sized hole to fill in the cast), it retcons Emmett (Cillian Murphy), a previously unmentioned family friend, into the story? Or that it brings in both Djimon Hounsou and Scoot McNairy without giving them that much to do?
Ultimately, it’s a film driven by the demands of horror sequels, offering more of what fans of the first film liked in different, but not too different forms. It’s a calculated way to make a horror movie but no less effective because of it. It doesn’t hurt that A Quiet Place Part II arrived in theaters at the best possible moment, one in which audiences wanted to be reminded of what it was like to sit in the dark in a room made electric with tension, and to hope together that everyone on screen somehow makes it out alive, no matter how dark and eerily hushed their world (and ours) has become.