Warning: Spoilers ahead.
“A Quiet Place II” premiered in New York City on March 8, 2020. Shortly thereafter, the world shut down and it didn’t see a full theatrical release until May 28 of this year.
While the movie’s plot, a continuation of 2018’s “A Quiet Place,” aligns neatly with what was happening in real life — people hiding out with their families in an attempt to avoid a menace lurking in the outside world — it’s not that movie. Instead, it’s a deeply unnerving and entertaining thriller that sees the kids from the first installment grow up and start learning to navigate their new normal while avoiding the lurking menace.
Okay, maybe to an extent it is that movie.
It opens with the people of a small town watching a Little League game. A mysterious flaming object appears in the sky. Shortly thereafter, aliens appear and start indiscriminately killing everyone. The Abbott family manages to escape and go into hiding to suffer the situations we saw in “A Quiet Place.”
This is not a prequel, though. John Krasinski — who directed and co-wrote the first and wrote, directed, and produced this one — merely provides backstory to set up the new plotline.
A Little Backstory
“A Quiet Place II” spends roughly 12 minutes getting from the baseball game to the present. The Abbots eventually discover how to kill the monsters, and then head towards their next new normal.
Flushed from their hideout after father Lee Abbott, played by Krasinski, sacrifices himself for his kids, mom Evelyn Abbott leads the family in their quest for new shelter. That’s when Marcus Abbott steps into a bear trap, alerting a nearby alien with his screams.
A man wearing a bandana — and no, it’s still not that movie — comes to their aid, taking them into his bunker. After a few tense minutes, we discover that man is Emmett, one of Lee’s friends.
Regan Abbott, the deaf daughter of Lee and Evelyn, discovers a message through Emmett’s radio. There’s life beyond the sea, it says, in this case on Long Island. Wanting to continue her father’s work, she sneaks off to find the source of the transmission.
When Evelyn realizes this, she implores Emmett to go save her daughter. He resists, but Evelyn tells him Lee would want him to save Regan. Emmett relents, and away we go.
They Grow Up So Fast
“A Quiet Place” was not technically a film about parenting. Much like the sequel, it was a film about monsters who roam about using ultrasonic hearing to hunt down and kill everyone they can find.
In the original, viewers saw Lee and Evelyn Abbott struggling to protect their growing family. In “A Quiet Place II,” viewers see the kids come of age and grapple with vanquishing monsters themselves.
Regan carries forth her father’s mantle. In the original, she discovered how to cripple the aliens and cause them to expose the vulnerabilities beneath their armor by amplifying feedback from her hearing aid. In the sequel, she uses that knowledge, plus her tenacity and resourcefulness, to try to save what remains of mankind.
It May Be Quiet, But You’re Always on Edge
With “A Quiet Place II,” Krasinski reveals himself as a masterful writer and director. The tension he creates with his cinematography and intentional quiet leave you unnerved. When coupled with the runtime of the movie, which definitely doesn’t outlast the average viewer’s bladder, his talent echoes that of Alfred Hitchcock, even if Hitchcock was merely quoting Shaw.
My eldest daughter, with whom I watched the movie, likened the film to zombie apocalypse stories. It seems peaceful, but you’re always waiting for the monster to appear from off-screen.
We were not alone in the theater, waiting for the monsters to appear. There were a handful of teens around us. Assigned seating was ignored, and there were no masks.
If we were neurotic, those things would have been terrifying. Instead, they gave a sense of life to the evening, a subtle sign that the real world’s new normal is actually the old normal.
For one hour and 37 minutes, we sat, with those around us, white-knuckled and waiting to see what would happen. Would the aliens get a few major characters? Would Regan complete her father’s work with the help of Emmett, who was motivated by his own desire for redemption after losing his own family?
The Kids Are All Right
Yes, Regan and Emmett do. And in a turn from the original, the kids save the parents.
Sitting in that theater with other humans, all unmasked, all gasping at the terror Krasinski so deftly portrayed, my daughter and I found the old normal. The only terror was on the screen. None of us were afraid of one another, none of us left the best seats to be distanced from other humans. We all relaxed and watched a movie.
“A Quiet Place II” may not be an intentional parable. It may just instead be one that accidentally captures the terror, solitude, and later hope that all of us felt over the past year. It may also just be a really great film.
Either way, it reminds us that no matter what things are out there waiting for us to go bump in the night, we’ve got the resilience to defeat them.