The delight of discovery and element of surprise were all used up on “A Quiet Place.” And that’s not just true for viewers. In the sequel’s prologue, the cast gives us the distinct impression that they can’t “unring” that bell, either.
As you’ve seen in every trailer, “A Quiet Place Part II” opens with a short, punchy “Day 1” prequel — the Day the Monsters Came and wrecked the world, Millbrook, New York and a tense little league game underway there.
From the instant, reflexive reactions of parents Evelyn and Lee Abbott (Emily Blunt and writer, director, husband John Krasinski), you’d swear it was Day 201, as they seem to “know” more than their characters should about the crab creatures who track them by sound and inefficiently slaughter the human race for reasons which are never crystal clear.
The cowering-in-place is true to life, but the muffled silence is not just shock. Everybody in the cast saw the first film, apparently.
But Krasinski still manages to back-engineer a tight, affecting sequel that is even quieter — brilliantly using the silence that deaf daughter Regan (Millicent Simmonds) experiences this horror in — and even noisier.
Where the first film dropped us into the cleverly under-explained “world” this family was struggling to survive in, this one picks up the survivors — who barely have time to mourn the death of Dad, which ended the first film — on “Day 474” as they flee the farm they’ve been hiding out on, taking what Dad learned about the invaders and what Mom figured out about keeping her now-three (don’t forget the baby) kids alive with them.
Daughter Regan is her Dad’s child — intrepid, a tween who understands the DIY engineering that gave them the answer to fighting back, “feedback,” manufacturing “tinnitus.”
Mother Evelyn is still bandaged, battered and barefoot, as are they all.
And middle-child/oldest son Marcus (Noah Jupe) is still the accident-prone one, the one not-at-all cut out for surviving this, a simpering, whimpering child who seems doomed to a Darwinian reckoning.
Cillian Murphy is the neighbor, whom we meet at the Day 1 ball game, who has survived the death of his entire family, embittered and cowering in the abandoned steel mill where he used to work.
“There’s nothing left,” he whispers after watching-not-helping them escape a fresh, noisy calamity. And “the people that are left, what they’ve become, they’re not the kind of people worth saving.”
We wonder how much he’s talking about himself.
But a chance scan of the family radio reveals that a Bobby Darin fan is still out there, broadcasting “Beyond the Sea” over and over again. Regan has to know if there are others, if they can help and if they’ve found a way to get life back to “normal.”
Yes, there’s a pandemic subtext, right out in the open, in that land where FM radio lives on and they still play 45s over and over again.
Krasinski’s set-piece this time is a neatly intercut three places people in this story are in peril, each facing a nearly insoluble and potentially fatal dilemma. And he gives the picture a sweet coda that is as emotional as anything in the first movie.
That, and bringing on two fine actors — Murphy and Djimon Hounsou — to supplement an already stellar cast — make “Quiet Place II” worth watching.
It’s more slackly-paced than the original, lacks its surprises and the terrifying peaks that the first script hit. The “back-engineering” and “suspend disbelief” science and technology and character behavior shows, often to clumsy effect.
But the “Quiet” once again drowns out the “noise” in this, the best creature feature of our times.
MPA Rating: PG-13 for terror, violence and bloody/disturbing images.
Cast: Emily Blunt, Millicent Simmonds, Cillian Murphy, Noah Jupe, John Krasinski and Djimon Hounsou.
Credits: Scripted and directed by John Krasinski. A Paramount release.
Running time: 1:37