One of the first major casualties of 2020’s COVID-induced mass delay of blockbusters, it feels only fitting that A Quiet Place 2 should be among the first ‘Big Movies’ to welcome audiences back into cinemas, and John Krasinski’s horror sequel proves more than up to the occasion. Superb sound design, intense set-pieces, and a clearly increased budget that allows for a wider scope than the original make for a hugely entertaining horror-thriller that will remind you just how much better movies are on the big screen.
A Quiet Place 2 picks up right where the original left off – with post-apocalyptic matriarch Evelyn Abbott (Emily Blunt) having painted the family basement with the brains of one of the monstrous, sonically-guided aliens that ended civilisation – but not before an exceptional prologue. Flashing back to the very first day of the aliens’ arrival/invasion, Krasinski conjures a sense of profound menace at the most mundane acts of Americana, chats with locals at the grocery store and a youth baseball game carrying ominous weight until all hell breaks loose.
We see a lot more of the monsters here than we did in the original, their speed, violence, and creepily elongated arms making them into horrifying villains, though their greater numbers and the family’s increased ability to fight back mean they’re less scary than the first time out – this is definitely the Aliens to the original’s Alien. After keeping the family together as an unbreakable unit in the first, Krasinski splits them up for this adventure, somewhat relegating Evelyn to the B-plot while daughter Regan (Millicent Simmonds) takes the lead, hunting for a mysterious radio signal alongside grizzled newcomer Emmett (Cillian Murphy).
Of the two strands, Regan and Emmett’s is easily the stronger, constantly moving forward and gradually building out this destroyed world, while Simmonds and Murphy each put in impressive performances. Evelyn is left holding the fort at a new safehouse, along with younger son Marcus (Noah Jupe) and the newly born baby that formed the crux of the first film’s most nail-biting scenes. There are still thrills to be found in this more static story, but you do find yourself hoping to swiftly return to Regan and Emmett, and there are a few frustrating moments with Marcus in particular as he makes some very cliched horror movie bad decisions.
Of course, for a film about silence to work, the sound design has to be top-notch, and A Quiet Place 2 really delivers on this front. From the horrible clicking of the aliens on the hunt to the muffled thuds of the world when we see it through Regan’s point of view, the sound work here immerses you deep into the world, making you hyper-aware of any lethally noisy mistakes its characters could make.
To expand the world, Krasinski cribs a lot from the PlayStation masterpiece The Last of Us, folding in bereaved survivors, cynical gangs of bandits, and the promise of a possible safe haven if only a gifted young girl can survive the journey. It’s a lot of fun to see how the world carried on outside of the Abbott family, though Krasinski’s choice to keep the runtime short, while mostly welcome in an era of bloated sequels, means that some of the newcomers, like Djimon Honsou and Scoot McNairy, don’t get the screentime or development they deserve. The ending also arrives quite suddenly, and while it is a satisfying, cathartic one, it’s not quite as rousing as it believes itself to be.
Despite its problems, A Quiet Place 2 offers a thrilling ride that really earns its Big Screen status in a way that the other recent post-lockdown blockbusters (The Conjuring 3, Cruella) didn’t quite, and it’s a joy to be welcomed back to cinemas by such a slickly executed thriller. I’m not sure we need any more films in this universe (a spin-off has already been greenlit), but this is an excellent second helping of one of the most pleasant horror movie surprises in recent years.