When A Quiet Place ended it left a battle raging between the curiosity of a wickedly fun take on how horror could work and the genre’s oldest crutch – dependence on stupid decisions. It was filled with great scenes that let tension flow from the world it built, but getting from one to the other was at times an eye-rolling chore. There was enough attention to the pace and characters to mostly offset the disbelief that simply couldn’t be suspended, which resulted ultimately in a pretty decent ride. Most importantly, for every “why don’t they just live at the waterfall” head-scratcher, there was so much attention to the possibilities of on-screen chills that you had to appreciate the attempt.
A Quiet Place Part II, which continues on right where the first film left off, feels like nothing more than a movie confused about what was good and bad about the first one. The excitement and general mood are a little emptier this time around, relying on jump scares far more than the crushing weight of trying to exist without making a sound. Meanwhile, there is hardly a decision made that isn’t outright laborious in its stupidity and several plot props are equally nonsensical as if in an attempt to steel the audience for a certain background level of inanity so that bad decisions won’t stand out.
Armed with a certain ability to protect themselves from the monsters, our family heads out to find a way to survive and, hopefully, other survivors. They soon meet up with Emmett (Cillian Murphy), who is given to us through a flashback as a person Lee (John Krasinski) and Evelyn (Emily Blunt) know. Before you know what happened, Marcus (Noah Jupe) is hurt and Regan (Millicent Simmonds) has become determined to set off to save the world.
The adventure that follows is seemingly born of a love of old films, the kind no one cares about anymore, where action can just be and a good quest is all you need. Throw in some monsters that are hard to kill, but easy-ish to avoid so they can be menacing as all get out, even when you’re right next to them, and popcorn thrills never had it so good.
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Credit to John Krasinski as director, the film is curiously luscious, at times nearly dazzling in its effort to meticulously use the medium to full effect, and even the “gag” visual moments (looking out from inside the furnace, etc.) work because they’re actually purposeful. The world and circumstance are still a weight that is delivered to the audience in a way that is unlikely to be fully appreciated. Certain scenes are so difficult most people would rework them, and if not would be nearly guaranteed to put out something that would teeter on the edge of laughable. The trouble is that Krasinski the director is so consumed with how to create a mood or emotion that Krasinski the writer is stuck creating ways to get to those moments and the only available routes are bad ideas.
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People can’t see to the end of a dock. Latches have magic physics that defy our being forced to stare at them up close. Sprinkler systems work the way that serves getting where we want, as does everything else. Decisions are based on nothing and contradict the dictates of the slightest amount of common sense and the sensibilities of the character we’ve been given. People don’t close doors, and then we stare at them for an extra ten seconds because that’s how the audience gets a chance to yell, “Oh my God! Close the door!” It’s as lazy as the visuals, and moments of the sound design, are inspired and calculated. Why not make the latch actually work the way you want it to? It’s a five-minute fix.
When A Quiet Place II ends we’re in the same predicament, only the cons are more glaring and hold your attention longer. Emily Blunt is still solid, but we are within a circuitous run of emotions that say things more and give her meat to work with less. Certain moments feel overly forced, as if body position is really the lion’s share of “acting.” Still, the pros are there and those willing to overlook a lot of oddities, there is definitely a good time to be had, but the majority of the potential is squandered.
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