The opening sequence of John Krasinski’s A Quiet Place Part II deliberately, even painstakingly, echoes the visual language of the previous film’s cold open – but on “Day 1,” rather than “Day 89”. The stoplight is working and the pharmacy that Lee Abbott (Krasinski) pops into is still operational. But its proprietor is glued to his television, broadcasting a news report of some catastrophic event. “A bomb, I think,” he says. Lee shrugs, and heads off to enjoy that most all-American of activities – a Little League baseball game, with his son on the field and his family in the stands.
This opening is a classic Hitchcockian bomb-under-the-table sequence – we know what’s coming, and we wait, tensely, for the mysterious fire in the sky to appear. The ensuing panic is harrowing, particularly since, again, we know what potential victims should not do; while hiding in a dive bar, someone says the Lord’s prayer, but Lee covers the man’s mouth, because the Lord’s not gonna save him from this.
As he did in 2018’s A Quiet Place, director Krasinski displays impressively sturdy craftsmanship, though it’s worth noting that this entire opening is, basically, the alien attack scene from Spielberg’s War of the Worlds. It’s the most successful sequence in A Quiet Place Part II, and also the first indication of the sequel’s mistakes. You see, one of the most compelling elements of the original film was how it made us put together how the world came to this – so of course the first thing its sequels shows us is that very thing, in explicit detail. And the effectiveness of the original film was found, to a great extent, in its compactness: confined to one location, laser-focused on one family and their strained relationships. So of course this one sends them out into the post-apocalyptic world, and has them spend most of the running time separated.
Structurally, the sequel folds around the original: after that flashback opening, we jump to the very moment the first film ended, as newly single mom (and again-new mom) Evelyn Abbott (Emily Blunt) pumps her shotgun, armed not only with that weapon but the knowledge that she can use the feedback from deaf daughter Regan’s makeshift cochlear implant to weaken the alien monsters that have taken over the planet. (The explicitness of the callbacks might require more specific memory of the details of the original than the casual viewer has likely retained, but revisiting the first one is a risky proposition – because the follow-up suffers so much in comparison.)
So with Regan (Millicent Simmonds), son Marcus (Noah Jupe), and the newborn in tow, they hit the road, for reasons not entirely clear. They’ve barely left their home before Marcus’s foot is in a bear trap and the baby is crying – this seems like a bad idea! – but it turns out Cillian Murphy wasn’t just making a casual cameo in that opening sequence, but will in fact step become the picture’s Krasinski surrogate. Regan, however, is trying to fill her dad’s shoes herself, decoding a radio message that she believes will take them to an island of survivors, where they can… use her implant information, I guess?
Anyway, the hardened Emmett (Murphy) discourages this idea, as does Evelyn, but Regan goes anyway, so Evelyn sends Emmett to find her and bring her back. It seems like a big ask, but understandable one; presumably, she doesn’t want to go herself because she doesn’t want to leave her (one day old!) baby. But then she leaves anyway, a couple of scenes later, leaving the baby in the care of Marcus, who starts wandering around their hideaway for no good reason, and…
Let’s pull out of the rabbit hole here, because these questions and logical fallacies mostly serve to make one key point: Nobody in this movie does a goddamn thing that makes one lick of sense. Wisdom of child-rearing aside, A Quiet Place was held together by its clockwork logic and sure sense of cause and effect; that’s all out the window here, and the film suffers badly for it. As the family members carry out their individual, inexplicable missions, Krasinski smashes his scenes together like blunt instruments, and at times, there’s an ugly cruelty to how he uses his intercutting to draw out the suffering and fear of his characters.
By the midpoint, even the central gimmick – you have to be super quiet or you die! – has run its course, and while I won’t spoil the events of the third act, they are, by any reasonable measurement, monumentally stupid. The first film’s screenplay was penned by Bryan Woods and Scott Beck, with Krasinski jumping on for a rewrite before directing; the new film is written solely by Kraninski, and when that credit pops up at the end of the film, it explains much of what’s come before. Krasinski shows so little understanding of the virtues of the first film, it’s sort of amazing he directed it so competently; here, left to his own devices, he’s adrift. The picture never makes a compelling case for it’s own existence – there was simply no more story to tell. It’s as simple as that, and A Quiet Place Part II proves that point, over and over again.
“A Quiet Place Part II” is in theaters Friday.