Review by Brian Lowry, CNN
Updated: Thu, 27 May 2021 14:00:49 GMT
The small-scale terror of "A Quiet Place" appeared destined to have trouble surviving a sequel, and it hasn't, mostly, in "A Quiet Place Part II," a movie that peaks early, arms itself with a central mission and still leaves room for more of what, in success, will likely become the Quiet Place Cinematic Universe.
The original, notably, found its horror -- and a sizable box-office haul -- in the struggles of a single family, isolated and resourcefully weathering an assault from alien creatures that rely on hearing to stalk prey because of a deaf child that enabled them to communicate using sign language. The fate of the outside world remained a mystery, with survival coming one stealthy step at a time.
Again directed by John Krasinski (this time with solo script credit), the film opens with its most bracing sequence, a flashback to when the world fell apart, with the first terrifying glimpse of the invaders, the headlong scramble to find safety and the realization that making noise was a very, very bad idea.
Flash forward to the aftermath of the events in the first movie, where the family stumbled on a sound that incapacitated the creatures. Yet that hasn't solved their problems, and they soon opt to leave home seeking other survivors, finding one (Cillian Murphy) who isn't especially keen on visitors.
Somewhat awkwardly, the teenage daughter, Regan (Millicent Simmonds), hatches a plan to use their discovery on the farm to fight back, while her mother (Emily Blunt) holds down the fort, defending the other teen (Noah Jupe) and her baby. The action thus unfolds on two fronts, providing a slightly wider lens on this post-apocalyptic world but still relatively incomplete information about the broader picture.
It's no surprise, really, that the pressure to conjure a sequel for a movie that worked quite well on a stand-alone basis would present such obstacles. Krasinski has done what he can to continue milking tension from the threats that lurk around every corner, and the effectiveness of silence as a means of conveying horror remains unabated, if no longer new.
At the same time, the first movie really exemplified the maxim that "less is more," and the inevitable temptation to expand on its template -- including the ability to show the monsters more often -- subtracts at least as much as it adds to the overall effect.
On the plus side, the nail-biting scenes within the movie appear tailor-made to usher audiences back into theaters, having been among the movies postponed in the early stages of the pandemic-related shutdown.
Seen that way, "A Quiet Place Part II" manages to be perfectly fine, and unsurprisingly, a more generic affair -- one that offers less for audiences to cheer, quietly or otherwise, beyond the renewed sensation of being frightened in the dark.
"A Quiet Place Part II" premieres May 28 in theaters. It's rated PG-13.