¡¡¡¡In 2018, director John Krasinski silently stole our breath and stopped our hearts with ¡°A Quiet Place.¡± The original was a perfect ¡°in theater¡± experience. When the film started and the lights went out, every person watching went quiet. Frozen in time quiet. Popcorn halfway to your mouth quiet. We didn¡¯t breathe again until the end credits started to roll.
¡¡¡¡2020 was a year of holding our breath. The world went still in March of 2020, and we didn¡¯t know what would happen. I did what any good mother would do on the verge of apocalypse: I made my kids watch all my favorite disaster films, horror movies, and thrillers. Social isolation, meteor impacts, natural disasters, micro aggressions, zombies, and alien invasions. ¡°The Shining,¡± ¡°Rear Window,¡± ¡°Us,¡± ¡°Get Out,¡± ¡°Zombieland,¡± and ¡°A Quiet Place.¡±
¡¡¡¡We are not a quiet family, so the idea of silence frightens us. We waited patiently for ¡°A Quiet Place II¡± to be released in theaters. This was a sign that our own apocalypse was coming to an end and we could safely return to our fictional terrors.
¡¡¡¡¡°A Quiet Place II¡± begins on Day 1, with the last moments of normal life. Quaint town, local friends, and community. When a mysterious fireball enters the atmosphere, deadly aliens follow. They kill swiftly and cannot be destroyed. Imagine a combination of monsters from ¡°Alien,¡± ¡°Predator,¡± and ¡°Pitch Black,¡± and then send these monsters to your son¡¯s baseball game. It is one thing to face the end of the world on a spaceship or deserted planet. It is another thing to face the end of the world at the park with your three kids in tow.
¡¡¡¡In this movie, noise is like blood in the water for sharks. Children are the perfect bait.
¡¡¡¡The first movie followed Lee and Evelyn Abbott (John Krasinski and Emily Blunt) as they cared for their children in this dangerous new world. Because they are farmers with a deaf daughter, their skills at survival are better than the average family. They use sign language. They grow their own food. It¡¯s an end of the world movie where having a dog is a liability. Usually, a dog is a requirement for the apocalypse. The Abbott¡¯s create their own liability, a newborn baby that they put in a coffin-like crib.
¡¡¡¡We step into the sequel as the Abbott¡¯s farm is destroyed. They leave their home behind and walk barefoot by reminders of those who have been killed. The children are daughter Regan (Millicent Simmonds) and son Marcus (Noah Jupe) who must now take center stage. This is their coming-of-age story. The newborn is a symbol of their complete vulnerability, but also hope for what life should be. When they find an old friend Emmett (Cillian Murphy), the Abbotts begin to understand that their quiet place had actually been a utopia compared to the rest of the world.
¡¡¡¡Marcus must protect the baby. Regan must venture further into the unknown with hopes of saving the wider world. A radio station is playing a single song as a beacon of hope. Somewhere beyond the sea there are other survivors and possibly a way to destroy the monsters.
¡¡¡¡I enjoyed the silence, the terror, and the symbolism. We are left with questions. Are we saved by our rugged individualism or through community strength? Does the end of the world mean that we will become savages? Or is our true curse optimism? Regan and Emmett meet a man on an island who is good (Djimon Hounsou), but his goodness also means naivete. I take issue with Hounsou¡¯s brief appearance and the overt ¡°Magical Negro¡± trope of the wise and yet disposable Black character. Same issue for the kindly cop in the first scene. Nice people equal monster food is a disappointing take in a film that strives to be a great movie. ¡°A Quiet Place II¡± doesn¡¯t just strive to be great. It often succeeds. We get high tension, rising stakes, and characters we can relate to.
¡¡¡¡We need a better explanation for the monsters with exceptional hearing. The alien in ¡°Alien¡± must procreate. The gestational process requires a host and therefore humans are the vessel. The alien in ¡°Predator¡± must hunt. Killing humans is just a deadly game. The alien in ¡°A Quiet Place¡± is missing motivation. It isn¡¯t eating the humans. It isn¡¯t using us for reproduction. The monsters are wild and unpredictable killing machines. The story would be better served by giving the monster a purpose. This is where the movie falls flat. I¡¯m a viewer who wants to love my monsters as much as I am terrified by them.
¡¡¡¡Despite the missteps, ¡°A Quiet Place II¡± still shines. Blunt, Simmonds, and Jupe are committed actors. I want to believe that if the world came to an end tomorrow, I would be like them. Optimistic and resourceful. Loving and determined even in our fear. We are given moments of quiet when we feel the world through Regan¡¯s silence. We are surprised with jump scares and loud bursts of static. The silence and the noise are equally unnerving.
¡¡¡¡In the end, we feel like we are owed a part three. The family must find a way back to each other. The hope of destroying the monster must be amplified. We want to experience what the winter is like. We want to see how the rest of the world has survived. I want to know what those aliens are really doing on our planet. Kill me if you must, but at least do so for a good reason. ¡°A Quiet Place II¡± is worth a trip to a real movie theater to see it on the big screen. I haven¡¯t been so happy and frightened all year. Grade B+
¡¡¡¡Nicki Salcedo is a Decatur resident and Atlanta native. She is a novelist, blogger, and a working mom.
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