Instead of doling out hot dogs and hamburgers this upcoming Memorial Day weekend, director John Krasinski’s giving us what we’ve really been missing: snarling, nightmarish, fearsomely fanged alien monsters that fill up a big screen.
The sci-fi survival horror sequel “A Quiet Place Part II” (★★★ out of four; rated PG-13; in theaters May 28) doesn’t quite live up to the refreshing feel or innovative novelty of the original 2018 hit, where silence is truly golden in a post-apocalyptic existence full of blind creatures that attack noisy things and noisier humans. But the creatures are still freaky, the soundscapes are still interesting, Emily Blunt is still the second coming of Sigourney Weaver and this time the storyline expands the world, plus lets the kids shoulder some of the live-or-die derring-do. It also works as one heck of a chilling fix for audiences dipping their toes back into reopened cinemas.
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The follow-up flashes back to the first day of the invasion in an amazing and unnerving prologue: A day of small-town little league baseball turns into absolute carnage and chaos courtesy of extra-terrestrial beasts, and the Abbott family – including dad Lee (Krasinski), mom Evelyn (Blunt), deaf daughter Regan (Millicent Simmonds) and son Marcus (Noah Jupe) – is left scrambling for safety. The action then shifts to the present – day 474 – that picks up where the original movie ended, with Evelyn and the kids (including her newborn baby) packing what they can and setting off after Evelyn offed one of the fiends and Lee sacrificed himself to save the children.
At least they’ve figured out how to kill the monsters hunting them: The feedback-causing combo of Regan’s cochlear implant and an amp causes the icky things to raise their impenetrable armor, and then a shotgun blast to the uncovered face does the trick. But after staying alive isolated on their farm, now the traveling Abbotts have to deal with how much has changed, including their fellow survivors. One of them is Emmett (Cillian Murphy), an old friend who’s lost his entire family and becomes a reluctant ally after Marcus is wounded after getting his leg caught in a bear trap.
The family navigates their new reality, and that means figuring out which people to trust (they’re not all saints out there), making some poor decisions and generally trying not to die.
Krasinski might still be a somewhat new filmmaker but the man is a master of ratcheting up tension just with clinking bottles or squawking birds at the right times in a setting that often lives up to the “Quiet Place” name. (And if you haven’t been in a movie theater in 438 days, they’re even more jarring. Thanks, surround sound!)
“The Office” alum keeps your stomach so taut you’ll get a good ab workout during scenes where Regan faces a creature on an abandoned train full of corpses – the pairing of Simmonds and Murphy leads to the film’s best scenes – or when Marcus has to keep his baby sibling safe from certain doom while hiding in a furnace. As much as the first movie was about the parents stepping up to be heroes, “Part II” puts an emphasis on the next generation who has to inherit what’s left of the world.
The new “Quiet Place” doesn’t do anything fancy nor does it need to: Adding a few new wrinkles and busting out of the “Alien”-style claustrophobia bent, the sequel is a solid outing that’ll sound good enough for folks who, like the Abbots, are also venturing out in a world that feels a little changed.