John Krasinski’s tense, shut-up-or-die creature feature A Quiet Place did not cry out for a sequel. But it did leave room for one, with a cliffhanger ending that kept its survivors dangling indefinitely in the moment of triumph, ready to pump more audio and lead into the screeching, sightless faces of their alien oppressors. To a Hollywood executive, that movie-closing cock of the shotgun must have sounded an awful lot like a dinging cash register. And so here, one year later than planned, is the return voyage to a countryside shushed silent by a spindly, deadly, extraterrestrial race of very good listeners. A Quiet Place Part II follows the standard sequel protocol of upping the ante, with more characters, more locations, and more scuttling predators putting their powerful lugholes to the proverbial ground in search of noisy prey. But while the Roman numerical title implies a grand continuation, what this second installment mostly offers more of is the same: It’s a part two in the classic, traditional sense, echoing without quite amplifying the pleasures of its predecessor.
The film does recall, in at least one respect, the most revered Part II in cinema, going full Godfather saga with an opening passage set before the events of the last movie. Krasinski, returning to direct, rewinds to the start of the invasion, which allows him to briefly reprise his starring role as Lee Abbott, husband and father of a family about to be thrust into a new nightmare normal. This “day one” sequence is spectacular: As a peewee ballgame is interrupted by something streaking through the sky overhead, an idyllic stretch of American everytown erupts into panic and death, which the former sitcom star stages through a series of extended shots, including one that surveys the mayhem from a moving vehicle, Children Of Men-style. It’s so intense and expertly orchestrated, you won’t mind that the kids, played again by Millicent Simmonds and Noah Jupe, look noticeably older than their characters are supposed to be.
Among the extras fleeing from digital phantoms is the familiar face of Cillian Murphy, as another dad unprepared for what his life’s about to become. It’s not until after Part II leaps into the aftermath of part one that we see his Emmett again, now bearded and haunted with grief. He’s holed up in an abandoned factory, studying its booby-trapped borders through the scope of a rifle. Appearing in his crosshairs are the remaining Abbotts: hardened, gun-brandishing single mother Evelyn (Emily Blunt); resourceful deaf daughter Regan (Simmonds), whose implants help generate the sonic feedback the family aims at marauding monsters; sensitive son Marcus (Noah Jupe); and an inconveniently vocal infant. They’ve fled their scorched farmhouse sanctuary in search of fellow survivors. Emmett has bad news on that front: “The people left are not the kind of people worth saving,” he ominously whispers.
This sounds like a recipe for escalation—for a thriller that might add a human menace to the inhuman one, asking time-honored questions of the “who’s the real monster” variety, like some big-screen variation on television’s most popular doomsday, The Walking Dead. Yet A Quiet Place Part II barely scratches the surface of that idea, or really of any others; it hints at a bigger world outside the boundaries of its genre games, then largely neglects to explore it. The plot, which Krasinski alone devised (his cowriters on the last movie, Scott Beck and Bryan Woods, sat this second chapter out), splits the nuclear family into parallel tracks, a search party and a fortress to defend. The divided narrative benefits some of the actors more than others: While Simmonds develops a terse rapport with Murphy (an old pro at making friends in the eerily depopulated post-apocalypse), Blunt is nudged to the sidelines—a curious fate for the ostensible star of this fledgling franchise. (Jupe, meanwhile, screams with aplomb; you’ll feel like your foot landed in a bear trap, too.)
Theoretically, it’s admirable that Krasinski has preserved the economy of the original: No one could accuse him of misplacing the values of his suspense-contraption hit, nor of bloating them beyond recognition. Yet at just 97 minutes (only a hair longer than the first Quiet Place), his sequel feels pared down to a fault, with no room to further flesh out this world or its occupants. As a piece of storytelling, it’s skimpy and vaguely unsatisfying. As a series of fight, flight, or bite-your-tongue set pieces, it delivers. Krasinski builds on the first film’s weaponization of space and sound, finding new angles in which to shoot something hideously crawling into the hazy middle distance, or yanking us in and out of Regan’s cone of sensory impairment. He has an eye for a memorable image, like Simmonds framed through the wreckage of a torn-asunder train. And in Part II, he creates overlapping planes of dilemma, crosscutting elegantly between one crisis and another happening elsewhere. If A Quiet Place must be plural, at least it’s still bringing a refreshing dynamic range to the (reopened) multiplex. How many prospective blockbusters hinge the precarious excitement on whether a pen might roll off a desk and hit the floor?
Still, the novelty of the premise has waned. It’s been sequelized into a quiet-loud-quiet formula: a sprint here, a crouch there, a growl, a shriek—the patterns of evasion and defense that define life on Krasinski’s Quiet Earth. Part II also diminishes the emotional stakes of the equation, the way the last film turned the necessity for wordlessness into a language of dysfunction, a metaphor for how a broken family fails to communicate. Corny? Absolutely, but in a way that grounded the Spielberg Lite thrills in some Spielberg Lite pathos. A Quiet Place Part II is finely prepared leftovers, still tasty but with a faint staleness cutting into the flavor. The film’s final scenes are both redundant and inconclusive; they hit almost the same note as A Quiet Place’s ending, only this time the ellipsis not only demands but practically promises another installment. “Stay tuned for Part III,” it screams without words. The difference is instructive: It took more imagination to leave the fate of this family to ours.