In the grand tradition of James Cameron’s Aliens, which threw a whole hive of xenomorphs at Ripley and crew, A Quiet Place: Part II (★★★★☆) is positively crawling with the ornery, spider-limbed creatures that had wiped out most of humanity before the first movie even started.
John Krasinki’s adroit sequel to his 2018 hit picks up the morning after the first. The Abbott family — led by Krasinski as Lee and real-life wife Emily Blunt as indestructible mom Evelyn — barely survived a night of painfully close encounters with the creatures.
Well, they didn’t all survive. But thanks to Evelyn’s nerve and resourcefulness, and Lee’s sacrifice, mom, their two teens, Regan (Millicent Simmonds) and Marcus (Noah Jupe), and the couple’s newborn baby all lived to see another day break over their New Jersey farm.
Before the Abbotts’ story takes another step forward, though, the film steps back to Day 1 of the event that brought the monsters forth, offering a gripping view of the sudden, horrifying invasion that changed the world. Wherever they came from, these sightless invaders, with heads that split open into gaping jaws of razor-sharp teeth, track their victims by sound. So silence is the only way to evade them.
Whereas the first film used silence brilliantly to generate suspense, Part II constantly sends those bloody CGI killing machines crashing into cars, boats, and buildings with seat-rattling sound. The hide-and-cower set-pieces and breakneck chase sequences are well-constructed, although the outcomes feel more predictable now as the Abbotts encounter other survivors, also known in horror movie logic as more likely victims.
A clever continuing twist in the Abbotts’ tale is that having adapted as a family to Regan being deaf, they’re accustomed to signing rather than speaking to communicate. Regan’s disability granted her family an advantage that she herself had to learn to trust. This time, Regan must put her trust in someone other than family: a neighbor named Emmett, played by Cillian Murphy as a man justifiably desperate not to lose the bit of security he’s found.
Which neighbors will look out for their fellow humans, and which ones will abandon any sense of unity to fend only for themselves becomes a life-or-death proposition when a global scourge is at hand. Without baring a hint of politics, the film draws a compelling line between acting for the public good, and prizing one’s own survival at the expense of others’ lives.
As the Abbott children — rendered in sensitive, gritty performances by Simmonds and Jupe — bravely step up to do their parts to save family and community, some of their adult counterparts don’t always find the courage. The monsters can’t smell people’s fear, but they can always find the coward who blusters loudest.
A Quiet Place: Part II is rated PG-13, and opens in theaters everywhere on Friday, May 28. Visit www.fandango.com.
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