******SHHHH! SPOILERS AHEAD******
A few years ago, a horror movie pal and I went to go see writer/director/star John Krasinski’s new horror flick “A Quiet Place”, and while the movie had some gaps in logic, I was surprised at how caught up we both became with the story’s simple premise: “Be quiet, or the monsters will get you.” Clearly inspired by “ALIEN,” “War of the Worlds” and various zombie post-apocalypse films, “A Quiet Place” was an adult reification of every bedtime prank played on kids by their parents to make them sleep–but brought to vivid life with intensity and surprising confidence, given Krasinski’s inexperience with the horror genre. My friend and I were so impressed by this tense, beautifully shot film that we saw it twice. Needless to say, I was glad to hear that a sequel was in the making, and that Krasinski was once again writing and directing.
Note: John Krasinski is arguably best know from the US version of “The Office” and currently plays the titular “Jack Ryan” on Amazon’s new political thriller series based on Tom Clancy’s books. For full disclosure, I’ve not seen either show, so I can’t honestly comment on their merits.
Then the pandemic happened, and it was almost as life-changing as the alien invasion in the movie. Theaters were shut down, as were restaurants, gyms, bars, coffee shops and just about every other form of group recreation. Everyone had to adjust to this weird and dangerous new ‘normal.’ During the shut-in year and a half, my wife and I bought (via Amazon) a portable digital projector and collapsible screen to cope with the lack of movie theaters; a lack I was feeling very acutely. The projector helped—a lot. Soon, my wife and I were streaming new movies at home with our AppleTV streamer and access codes (“Bill & Ted Face the Music,” “Mulan,” “Wonder Woman 1984”, etc). So, when I heard that “Quiet Place Part II” was finally being released to both theaters and streaming (after a year of delays), I chose the latter option, both for personal safety and convenience.
So after a two month run in theaters, “A Quiet Place, Part II” debuted on ParamountPlus this week (no access code required), so I fired up the projector, unfurled the 7 ft. (2 meter) screen, grabbed my lime water drink and turned my home office into a temporary theater once again…
“A Quiet Place: Part II” (2021).
Returning to the first film’s upstate New York town, the movie opens with a flashback to the day the world went to hell. At a Little League baseball game for son Marcus (Noah Jupe), mother Evelyn (Emily Blunt), hearing-impaired older sister Regan (Millicent Simmons), and delayed dad Lee (writer/director John Krasinski) are all on deck to give the boy encouragement from naysayers, like rival Little Leaguer dad Emmett (Cillian Murphy). When it looks like poor Marcus is about to strike out, strange clouds appear in the sky—and soon the now familiar, velociraptor-fast monsters descend upon the town and start ripping people to shreds. The Abbotts are quick to suss out that these monsters are blind, and navigate with super-sharp, sonar-like hearing. After much panic and confusion, the Abbotts are temporarily separated in the melee, but are soon reunited.
Note: It’s never explained exactly where the creatures came from, or why they are so hellbent on killing the people of Earth. We don’t know if they are space travelers (unlikely; they don’t seem to have the necessary reasoning powers) or if they are apex predators that ‘fell to Earth’ from another dimension (that’s my theory, anyway). Whatever they are, knowing too much about them would might take away their fear factor (see: the ALIEN prequel “Prometheus”). Writer/Director Krasinski is wise to leave them a vaguely-defined menace operating on a very specific set of rules.
In one of the most horrific moments from the first film, Evelyn have to silently give birth in a bathtub, with no medical assistance whatsoever (!). We also saw Lee rig an enhanced hearing aid for his daughter Regan. By accident, they soon discovered that high-pitched feedback from the device, ran through an amplifier, created a powerful deterrent to the creatures. The Abbotts also lost their youngest son Beau (Cade Woodward) as well as dad Lee, who sacrificed himself in a desperate attempt to save his remaining family. Needless to say, the Abbotts are no strangers to trauma and loss.
Note: Trailers for the movie showed Lee appearing in the film, so I assumed he was going to appear in flashbacks, since he was unambiguously killed near the end of the first film. I’m so glad they didn’t go with the soap opera cliches of Lee having a twin brother, or somehow surviving the explosion that took his life. I was pleased to hear that John Krasinski was returning as both writer & director for the sequel; his presence is strong throughout the film, even if he’s not seen.
Now, a year later, we see Evelyn, her baby, Regan and Marcus trekking quietly on foot to search for a new home. The baby is placed in a closed basket, with a tiny oxygen mask over her face, to prevent her natural cries from accidentally alerting the omnipresent creatures. The family is making their way to an abandoned mill for sanctuary, when they begin to notice signs of boobytraps littering their path in the overgrown grass. While quietly doing their best to avoid the dangers, Marcus accidentally gets his leg caught in an iron-jawed bear trap and does what anyone would instinctively do in such a situation—he screams like a banshee from hell. Evelyn and Regan do their best to muffle the understandably agonized kid, but to no avail. Before long, the monsters are alerted; but not before an unknown ally rushes to their rescue, and takes them inside the mill for shelter.
Note: We never hear Evelyn’s baby’s name onscreen, and I wonder if Evelyn ever bothered to name the infant at all, since even making the sound of her child’s name could mean death for the entire family.
The masked stranger carries the wounded Marcus and hurriedly leads the Abbotts to a large, unused furnace deep within the mill, which closes with a heavy metal door. This allows people inside the furnace to relax a bit, but there’s a catch; there’s only enough air inside the furnace for a few minutes before the door has to be opened again. Grateful for the temporary refuge, Evelyn and Regan tend to Marcus’ injured leg, which will cause the boy to limp for awhile, at the very least.
Note: The stranger’s wearing of a scarf over the lower half of his face is almost a precognitive nod to the current pandemic, since the movie was shot in 2019, just before the widespread onset of COVID-19 in January/February of 2020, which was, in some ways, nearly as devastating as the movie’s alien invasion.
The masked stranger later takes off his mask to reveal that he is Emmett (Cillian Murphy), a former friend of the family who was attending the baseball game with his own son (Zachary Golinger) in the flashback. Taking Evelyn under a concrete vault for some quiet talk, Emmett tells her that she and her family have to leave soon. Emmett is protecting his own son, and there simply aren’t enough supplies for the Abbotts to stay. Evelyn and Emmett also learn they’ve both lost their respective spouses. As the adults talk, Regan and Marcus continue to scan for any active broadcasts on their large portable radio (as their late father did). Marcus locks onto a station that plays an endless loop of ’50s crooner Bobby Darin’s “Beyond the Sea.” Ignoring its significance, Marcus thinks it’s just an automated broadcast, but clever Regan gets the deeper message—the song itself is meant to tell fellow survivors where to go for sanctuary; a small island community just beyond the nearby lake. Regan tells her injured brother that she is going to set out on foot (only a day’s walk) to find a boat and make for the island. Marcus threatens to tattle on her, until he eventually dozes off…
Note: Costar Cillian Murphy first made a name for himself surviving another apocalypse scenario in 2002’s “28 Days Later.” He’s played villains in movies such as “Red Eye” (2005), “Inception,” (2010) and “In Time” (2011). He was also, of course, Dr. Jonathan Crane, aka “The Scarecrow,” in Christopher Nolan’s “Dark Knight” trilogy of Batman movies (2005-2012).
Awakening the next morning, Evelyn and Marcus realize that Regan has gone off in search of the island sanctuary alluded to in the broadcast. Realizing what she’s done, Evelyn pleads with Emmett to help her, but he refuses. Regan, walking along railway tracks, finds an abandoned train car and (foolishly) goes inside. Finding a few long-decayed corpses, the not-easily-spooked kid accidentally makes noise (which she cannot hear, of course), which gives her away to the blind monsters, one of which enters the car. Regan uses her hearing aid’s feedback to hold the creature at bay until she can fire her shotgun, but her first shot fails to kill it. Fumbling to ready a second shot, the creature moves in for the kill–and is blown away by a shot from Emmett, who came after her. As Emmett insists on taking her back to the mill, she refuses, telling him that they can reach the island across the lake. Realizing she’s right, Emmett reluctantly agrees to help. They overcome their communication difficulty when Regan gently reminds him to en-un-ci-ate clearly so that she may read his lips…
Note: Despite the somewhat predictable rescue by Emmett, Regan is an affirming role model for disabled children everywhere, and Millicent Simmons deserves major kudos for her memorable performance. This is yet another one of those times where representation truly matters in pop culture, as disabled characters are too often portrayed as helpless victims in such movies. Regan’s deafness proves advantageous in the “Quiet Place” mythology, as her hearing aid’s feedback providing a weapon against the aliens, and her sign language provides a silent means of communication for the entire family. Given all of this, some might find it regrettable that Regan was rendered helpless so quickly in her attempt to find sanctuary. However, if she weren’t allowed such vulnerability, she’d risk becoming a plastic action figure. After all, Regan is still a kid, not Wonder Woman.
Soon, night begins to fall. Emmett warns Regan that there are many desperate people out there, who are every bit as dangerous as the monsters. They reach the boats, and Regan sees a little girl crying at the end of the dock. Offering assistance, Regan learns the little girl is a decoy. A terrified Regan is instantly surrounded by wild men, who immediately see the teenager as potential breeding stock. Emmett tries to intervene, but is instantly captured. Then the aliens arrive, and their attack is well-timed, since they quickly pick off the would-be sexual predators. Rachel and Emmett barely manage to escape in a boat themselves when they learn something very valuable—the blind creatures can’t swim.
Note: Regan’s potential rape is disturbing on multiple levels, not the least of which is the sight of her fellow human beings preying on a disabled teenager. Desperate human beings who’ve left behind their decency are a far greater danger than any monster conjured from our imaginations. The blind monsters’ unintentional ‘rescue’ of Regan and Emmett reminded me of the T-Rex unwittingly coming to the rescue of our heroes near the end of “Jurassic Park” by ravaging the attacking velociraptors.
Arriving at the island in the center of the lake, Emmett and Regan are startled to hear the pleasant sounds of people having a good time. They see electric lights, a community cookout, and people carrying on as if the creatures’ invasion never occurred. They are warmly greeted by a Man (Djimon Hounsou), whose name is never revealed. This Man is the de facto leader of this community. He himself was a refuge from New York City, who came across this isolated island and helped build it up. With the non-buoyant creatures unable to swim, the community is safe, much like a moat surrounding a medieval castle. Regan and Emmett quickly make friends within the group, and Regan also learns that the radio station on the island is from where “Beyond the Sea” was being broadcast. The song was, as she deduced, an invitation to join them.
Note: Like Evelyn’s baby, “the Man on the Island” is never given a formal name. Once again, I assume that spoken names would begin to lose meaning in a world where silence equals survival, but it’s kind of odd that ‘the Man’ wouldn’t orally introduce himself to Emmett. After all, he tells him about living in New York before resettling on the island, so why not give a first name? Actor Djimon Hounsou has an impressive list of credits, including “Shazam,” “Guardians of the Galaxy,” “Blood Diamonds” “Aquaman” and “Amistad,” to name a few.
This idyllic paradise doesn’t last when Emmett realizes some of the creatures have boarded one of the unmoored boats and drifted to the island. In broad daylight, the creatures attack. Leaving his kids in a large closet, the Man and Emmett take Regan and flee. Sadly, the Man is killed in the escape attempt when one of the monsters rips through the roof of the Man’s car and kills him. Regan and Emmett barely make their way to the town’s radio station, where Regan hopes to stop its “Beyond the Sea” invitation.
Note: While the “Quiet Place” movies have done a great job in promoting awareness of the hearing impaired as potential movie heroes, it hasn’t done as much with racial diversity, as the focus of the story has primarily remained on one white family. It doesn’t help that the one hero of color in the sequel doesn’t even get a first name and soon becomes ‘the dead guy’ while helping the white heroes to escape. This may seem a nitpick, granted, but I always hated seeing scores of non-white characters killed off in horror movies in order to save white heroes. “Night of the Living Dead” (1968) was revolutionary for featuring a black actor (Duane Jones) as the movie’s lead, but even he was killed off at the very end of the movie when he was ‘accidentally’ shot by redneck hunters who ‘mistook’ him for a zombie. At least its 1978 sequel, “Dawn of the Dead,” saw the black hero, “Peter” (Ken Foree) survive at the end of the movie. If there is another sequel to “A Quiet Place” (and I expect there will be), they could use one or two more non-caucasian actors in the cast.
Driving the car (with the alien in pursuit) to the radio station, Regan enters the broadcast booth, which has been playing the son “Beyond the Sea.” The shack is invaded by one of the monsters, and just as Emmett is facing imminent death, Regan plugs her hearing aid into the room’s speakers, causing the sound-sensitive creature great pain. The creature’s multi-chambered ears temporarily part, revealing a weak spot within its head. While the creature is temporarily defenseless, Regan plunges an iron rod into the monster’s brain and kills it. She then broadcasts a continuous sound of her shrill hearing aid feedback signal, in the hopes that other survivors might be able to weaponize it for themselves…
Note: Hooking up her hearing aid to a radio station not only helps her brother in the next scene, but it also sets up a way for the world to fight back. This weaponization of Regan’s hearing aid feedback was used to save the remaining Abbotts in the first film, and is now broadened in scope to save even more people for the sequel.
Back at the abandoned mill, Evelyn needs to get antibiotics and pain medications for her her son’s foot. She signs to Marcus that she will be right back, but the boy is terrified his mother will abandon him, like Regan did. Worse, Evelyn is also leaving Marcus in care of the baby, something with which the boy is terribly uncomfortable. Evelyn quietly retraces a familiar path to the drugstore—a destination we saw her visit in the first film; the place not far from where her son Beau was killed. Getting the necessary drugs and pain medication, she is on her way back when she hears noises from within the mill. Marcus had put the baby on the oxygen tank to keep her quiet as he wandered around the mill, where he located the mummified body of Emmett’s late wife (!). The startled boy made just enough noise to alert one of the creatures, which has now invaded the mill. Evelyn retreats back to the temporary safety of the airtight furnace with a fresh canister of oxygen for both the baby and the hiding Marcus. She finds the baby’s oxygen almost gone and Marcus unconscious, but he quickly comes around when the airtight door is opened for a moment.
Intercut with Regan attacking the creature at the radio station, we see Marcus now going on the offensive to protect his mother and the baby. Grabbing the radio, he tunes into Regan’s shrill hearing aid signal. Grabbing Evelyn’s shotgun to confront the attacking monster, he cranks up the radio’s volume, causing the pained creature to halt its advance long enough for the boy to get a clean shot and kill it. The first film was about parents going through any lengths to help their kids. Now the sequel sees the Abbott kids rising to the challenge to save their elders.
Note: A much-welcome if somewhat predictable moment of heroism for Marcus, who’s been forced to play the role of frightened kid for much of the movie. Marcus’ screams after the bear trap snapped on his leg nearly got the entire family killed, and his injury forced him to stay behind as his older sister sought help. Marcus’ final indignity came when he shilly-shallied about taking care of his baby sister while his mom went off to get drugs for his wounded leg. I realize he’s only a 14 year old kid, but in a post-apocalypse, one can’t expect to be coddled too much, if at all.
Summing It Up.
While the novelty of the first movie’s simple premise may have worn off a bit, writer/director John Krasinski still knows how to pour on the nerve juice in this worthy sequel. While “A Quiet Place: Part II” is a bit more predictable than its predecessor, there is still plenty of tension, even if none of the other main characters—at least the ones with names—are killed off (see my dismay with the arbitrary death of Djimon Hounsou’s character in the notes above).
The sound-sensitive, sightless creatures remain an enigma. There are still many unanswered questions, such as where do they come from (outer space? another dimension?), why do they hunt us, etc., and I’m okay with that, because any attempts at over-explaining these faceless nightmares will only reduce their impact. You don’t want to do a “Prometheus” on this budding franchise.
“A Quiet Place: Part II” also has the disadvantage and advantage of poor timing; yes, the pandemic delayed its release in theaters by more than a year, but the idea of people hiding in ‘safe spaces’ to avoid a monstrous invasion also has strong resonance with the current COVID-19 pandemic, which only gives this arguably simple monster movie an unintentional layer of new meaning. Well worth checking out if you enjoyed the first film.
“A Quiet Place: Part II” can be viewed either theatrically or on ParamountPlus streaming (no special access codes required). To my readers, I once again wish you and all of your loved ones good health and strength during the current coronavirus pandemic. The current number of COVID-related deaths in the United States are around 607,000 as of this writing. Meanwhile, several vaccines are available and inoculations are finally widespread (whew!), which is greatly slowing the US mortality rate (though the new Delta variant is cause for concern). Given a certain level of vaccine hesitancy, it may take a while longer for eventual herd immunity. Even vaccinated, it may still be possible to catch the coronavirus, though your chances of getting ill from it are slim-to-none. So, if you haven’t already done so, please get vaccinated as soon as possible and let us immunize our way out of the COVID pandemic.