Even after the success and overall quality of 2018’s A Quiet Place, something seemed off to me about the movie. People loved it, the sound design was incredible and Oscar nominated, and the story was simple, tense, and original. This might be an unpopular opinion, but I think writer/director/star John Krasinski kept the movie from being truly special. There is a quality to his performance and direction that scream, “Guys, I’m making a serious movie and I’m doing it seriously!” which is quite off-putting to me. I think the original succeeds in spite of its director.
Unfortunately, A Quiet Place Part II takes those negative elements and just ramps em on up. This time around, Krasinski is the sole writer and only appears in the opening flashback sequence, so his acting isn’t the problem. It’s the writing and direction that bugged me the entire time. The movie is wearing its attempts at tension and horror so obviously on its sleeve that it takes away from any tension or horror that’s actually being created. The best horror or thriller movies are effortlessly tense. They create those moments of release when they end and you didn’t realize you’d been holding your breath or clenching tightly to the armrest the whole time. There’s nothing manufactured — it’s all natural.
Here, though, everything feels manufactured. I’m not typically a horror person, but for every big moment in this movie, I felt like the director was holding my hand and whispering in my ear telling me, “Get ready, this is the tense part!” or, “This is the jump scare part!” It was all telegraphed from a mile away and it completely broke my immersion. With 13 Hours, Jack Ryan, and the Quiet Place movies, it’s felt like Krasinski has been trying real hard to not only be known as the guy from The Office who makes the faces. But every time I look at him, I just see him as the guy from The Office who makes the faces but is trying really hard not to make the faces now.
Part II picks up moments after the end of its predecessor. The Abbott family now needs to leave their home and find somewhere safe, away from the monsters that are blind but have perfect hearing. The new premise does at least allow for some interesting themes to at least be introduced: home, loss, and maturing. But none of these are ever explored. The events of this film don’t add anything to the first film. It could have been titled, A Quiet Place: Some More Things Happen, because that’s all there is to the film. They thought up bunch of sci-fi/horror set pieces and put the bare bones of a story together to have the big sequences fit. The characters are barely given any space to grow, as it takes place over about two days in only 97 minutes. It’s all too condensed for anything legitimate to happen.
This movie feels like a little kid having way too much confidence in their ability to scare you when they jump out from the most obvious place in the room. So you just give them a kind smile and a pat on the back because of how cute he used to be on The Office… I might have mixed my metaphor with real life. Anyway… The direction feels like Krasinski doing certain things with the camera because he doesn’t want it to be static. It’s look-at-me filmmaking, but only for the sake of itself and not for the sake of the story.
There is a solid 60% of the time when the biggest reason I was taken out of the movie was because of confused character motivations. It was more than people being stupid because it’s a horror movie — characters would just do things with no reasoning and it would make no sense in the context of what was happening. Good horror moments are prioritized over a good horror story. Then little nuggets of information are thrown at you here and there that feel like they’re supposed to be Easter eggs, but they again completely took me out of the immersion of the film.
I really hated this movie, but I will give it props in three areas: first, it doesn’t try to over-explain the alien monsters. A lot of sequels like this probably would have, which would make it too bloated. But A Quiet Place Part II is smart enough to keep the story limited to its small cast of characters, which are actually the second positive area. The small ensemble cast is not given much of quality to do, but they all stand out. Emily Blunt and franchise newcomer Cillian Murphy ground the movie, while the young Noah Jupe and Millicent Simmonds are given more room to shine. Simmonds especially gives a good performance and I look forward to continuing to see her appear in more movies. Finally, the sound design is again well done, though it’s not nearly on par with what the original was able to achieve.
But that’s about all I have to say on the positive side. I hate it when immersion is broken by a filmmaker obviously trying to manipulate you through painfully obvious movie making choices. The cinematography shows so many shots of feet that even Quentin Tarantino would think that it’s too much.
The film has good performances, but they’re dragged down by the rest of the filmmaking, and I’d prefer 28 Days Later when it comes to Cillian Murphy living in a post-apocalyptic wasteland. Looking at other reviews, I’m very obviously in the minority, but I really did not have a good experience watching this movie. A Quiet Place Part II is all the worst parts of its predecessor amplified.