Rebecca’s Take

In 2018’s “A Quiet Place,” director John Krasinski masterfully helmed a family-centric horror hit and one of the year’s best films, based on a simple conceit. Three years later, Krasinski has done it again with “A Quiet Place Part II,” and his timing couldn’t be better.

The highly anticipated sequel was one of the first movies to be pushed back from its original 2020 release because of the coronavirus pandemic. Finally arriving in theaters more than a year later, the long wait was worth it.

“A Quiet Place Part II” is just as suspenseful and emotional as the original, made to be experienced on the big screen. Krasinski’s magnificent follow-up taps into the perfect blend of horror and heart that made the first film so special.

The premise of the films is that alien creatures have descended on Earth, killing most of the population. The blind monsters are attracted to noise, so if you can stay quiet, you can stay alive. The post-apocalyptic sequel catches up with the Abbott family immediately after their house was attacked by the creatures in the original. After loving husband and father Lee (Krasinski) sacrifices himself to save his family, his wife Evelyn (Emily Blunt) sets out with their daughter Regan (Millicent Simmons), son Marcus (Noah Jupe) and newborn baby to leave their home.

The family finds shelter with an old friend, the loner Emmett (Cillian Murphy), who has become distrustful of other people. But Regan has discovered a way to defeat the monsters. When a radio broadcast suggests there are other humans out there, the determined Regan ventures out to help them. With the family now split up, each member faces a threat to their survival – from the monsters and the very people they’re trying to save.

Acting as a prequel and a sequel, “A Quiet Place Part II” doesn’t make the mistakes that many sequels do. At a fast-paced 97 minutes, the compact follow-up expands the world of the first film by introducing a few new locations and characters without growing too big. Though it features more monsters, “Part II” holds true to the theme of family that differentiated the original from other genre films. The film inserts heart-tugging callbacks and reflective moments in between the pulse-pounding action. It gives its characters enough time to acknowledge their emotions.

From its opening scenes, “A Quiet Place Part II” cranks up the tension, keeping viewers on the edge of their seats. The breathtaking first 10 minutes shows Day 1 of the monster invasion. In one long take filmed through a car window, Evelyn drives the family’s vehicle in reverse as a bus rushes toward them – then we view a terrifying glimpse of the monster. Throughout the film, Krasinski alternates between continuous takes, quick cuts and warranted jump scares to demonstrate the lurking danger – which isn’t always from the creatures.

As the characters diverge on three separate journeys, the film splices back and forth between them as the plots reach a thrilling crescendo. The excellent editing by Michael P. Shawver will leave moviegoers holding their breath. With the film’s emphasis on silence, the sound design adds another layer of suspense as the slightest noise threatens to lure a creature. In one nail-biting scene, Regan climbs onto a desk as she carefully tries to avoid a coffee cup. I’ve never been so scared of a cup falling over in my life!

Like the original film, the acting in “A Quiet Place Part II” is full of phenomenal performances. Each of the Abbotts shows themselves to be resourceful. Jupe gets some of the film’s most suspenseful moments as he tries to protect himself and the baby. As Evelyn, Blunt calls up her action pedigree as the resilient mother must battle the monsters to save her children. The actress (and Krasinski’s real-life wife) shines in a few standout scenes, but this isn’t her movie.

“A Quiet Place Part II” belongs to Simmons. As the hearing-impaired Regan, the deaf actress takes the reins of the story as she carries on her father’s mission. Maturing since the last film, Simmons deftly handles the creature action and character-driven scenes. The actress shares great chemistry with Murphy, the film’s newest addition. As Emmett, the outstanding actor naturally fills the void left by Krasinski’s character. After dealing with his own losses, Emmett is reluctant to open himself up, but he forms a protective and encouraging bond with Regan.

The follow-up brings back the communal experience of watching horror movies with an audience. During the sequel, my entire audience gasped out loud when a character was injured early in the film. I’ve missed this shared experience by not being able to watch movies in a theater for months. The film also eerily bridges the gap between art and real life. Even though “Part II” was filmed before the pandemic, I couldn’t help but compare the last few minutes of normalcy for the Abbotts to the day last March when our world shut down.

While other horror franchises revel in doom and gloom, the “Quiet Place” films radiate hope. This reflects Krasinski’s optimism. The beloved “The Office” alum kept up viewers’ spirits with his “Some Good News” videos during the pandemic. Making a welcome return in front of the camera here, Krasinski’s brand of family-focused horror has connected with moviegoers. The films’ message – that family is the most important thing – may even resonate more now.

My only complaint about “A Quiet Place Part II” is that the film’s ending feels abrupt. As well-paced as the film is, I didn’t actually want it to end, which I don’t often say about horror films. The film leaves itself open for a “A Quiet Place Part III,” which I hope we get.

After a more than yearlong delay, “A Quiet Place Part II” emerges at just the right time, convincing moviegoers to return to the cinema. This is not only one of the best horror sequels that I’ve ever seen, but the masterful follow-up is one of the best films of the year. “Part II” cements Krasinski’s reputation as a filmmaker to watch.

With heart-pumping suspense, an emotional center and great performances, “A Quiet Place Part II” signals it’s time to come back to the theater – and enjoy the silence.

4.5 out of 5 stars

Millicent Simmonds, left, and Cillian Murphy star in “A Quiet Place Part II.” (Jonny Cournoyer/Paramount Pictures via AP)

Joe’s Take

Obviously, I watch movies weekly to provide content for this blog, and my friend Jason usually joins me for a lot of the theater experiences. However, the coronavirus pandemic halted that tradition as studios pushed back a lot of their film releases at least a year. One of the first films to move was “A Quiet Place Part II,” which actually had its world premiere in March 2020 in New York City. Many movies followed, as studios pushed release dates to 2021 and even 2022. While we saw “Tenet” in September, it was one of the few blockbusters to debut in the heart of the pandemic.

Fourteen months after its original release date, “A Quiet Place Part II” hit theaters this weekend. In a way, it felt as though “A Quiet Place Part II” bookended the pandemic, at least for the theater industry. For the first time in a long time, the theater was at least half filled and the experience among strangers watching a horror/thriller returned. I felt the nervous energy in the audience. It was the best theater experience I had in more than a year. For the first time since the beginning of the pandemic, it feels like blockbusters and the theater experience that comes with them are back. Also, “A Quiet Place Part II” is awesome.

The film opens with a flashback to Day 1 when the creatures arrived. The thrilling opening sequence sets the tone for the film, as the viewers are on the edge of their seats. The audience knows what’s coming at any minute, while the characters don’t. That tension never subsides as the film flashes forward to where the previous installment ended. The Abbott family, including Evelyn (Emily Blunt) and her three children Regan (Millicent Simmonds), Marcus (Noah Jupe) and a newborn, just witnessed the death of their husband and father, Lee (John Krasinski), and are forced to leave their house, which was destroyed. However, they are now armed with a weapon (the feedback created when Regan puts her hearing aid to a microphone) that makes the creatures vulnerable.

Looking for shelter, the trio runs into a former family friend Emmett (Cillian Murphy), who doesn’t want them to stay more than the night. However, Regan figures out a possible safe zone for all of them, and Emmett must decide to help the family or make them leave.

Krasinski, also the director and one of the writers on the film, knows how to build and sustain tension. The audience spends most of the 1-hour, 37-minute runtime on the edge of its seat. The tension only grows as the film progresses, especially during a thrilling sequence where the characters are split up and the shot keeps jumping among the three scenarios. In the theater, I felt the nervous energy and heard the gasps and the ‘Oh my Gods,’ as the film kept the audience engaged throughout.

The acting only got stronger in the second installment, as Blunt, Simmonds and Jupe had more time with their characters and with each other. The big addition was Murphy, who nailed his role. He perfectly helms his emotions, and thrives alongside Simmonds.

The score is once again excellent, perfectly fitting into the background in most scenes to build tension and then coming to the forefront for more emotional moments. The CGI creatures look great, as they see more screen time in the sequel.

It also beautifully captures a lot of visual storytelling. While there is some exposition, the film tells a lot of Emmett’s story visually. Some of one scene is shot through the scope of Emmett’s rifle, which tells the audience he’s only looking out for himself and not others in danger. The audience understands what Emmett is going through just from visually cues, and a lot of that credit should go to Murphy’s subtle acting. Instead of stopping and explaining, the movie continues to flow. This allows the film to focus on what it needs to and lessens the runtime. Keeping an audience tense for two hours would have been too much.

“A Quiet Place Part II” maintains the tension, emotion and character development from the first installment to create a stellar sequel. Blunt, Simmonds and Jupe shine brighter, as Murphy fits right in with the strong cast. It’s rare when a sequel meets expectations. However, it picks up where the first one left off, and kept what made the original so great. It was also the perfect theater experience, something that didn’t happen for more than a year.

4.5 out of 5 stars