By Tim Jackson
Survival is the primary motivation, and the film’s unrelenting series of unexpected attacks generate considerable tension.
A Quiet Place Part II, opens today at the Kendall Square Cinema and Capital Theater in Arlington.
The horror genre is filled with metaphors, political and otherwise. A Quiet Place coyly played on a domestic theme — parental responsibility. Evelyn and Lee Abbott (real life couple John Krasinsky and Emily Blunt) battled to save their family from inexplicably hostile blind alien creatures who used sound to hunt their prey. When Evelyn told her husband “We have to protect them” the larger implication was clear: this is the story of creating a safe future for our children. Krasinsky became a new father just after he wrote the script. That made a difference, he told the Hollywood Reporter: “I said to my wife, I think I have to rewrite the script and make it about our kids.”
In Quiet Place Part II, the creatures are back but Lee is not. Krasinski is still at the helm, but the challenge for survival is on Evelyn (Blunt) and her children, Marcus and Regan (Noah Jupe and Millicent Simmonds). There is now an infant to protect who was born at the end of the first film. This sequel ups the action ante and complications: there’s a groaning soundtrack, multiple story lines, and creatures that move like scattering cockroaches. Silence is still golden. Make the slightest peep and these things attack: they arrive by leaps and bounds and commence to rip and chomp at their stunned victims. I’m not sure whether they eat people or merely demolish their bodies. Little blood is spilled (at least on camera), but the violence is shocking — these monsters are quick and merciless. They have giant, grasshopper-like bodies, long nasty claws, and disturbing heads like lamprey eels. The design of the alien creatures is tantalizingly complex. Are they nightmares out of Georgia O’Keeffe paintings? Insects outfitted with vagina dentata? You are never quite sure what these creatures look like. Although at one point we gaze down through the teeth and into the folds of one of their gaping mouths. If not gynecological, perhaps we’re spying into some sort of angry alien ear canal?
Which gets me wondering, is there a feminist thrust to A Quiet Place 2 Part II? Yes — this time women take charge. Daughter Regan takes off to search for the source of a radio signal that has been repeatedly broadcasting Bobby Darin’s “Beyond the Sea.” She wisely recognizes it as a coded message. She’s armed with only a cochlear hearing aid, an amplifier, and a shotgun, and uses them to generate high-pitched feedback that weakens and disorients the creatures, giving her time to blow them away. As Regan, Millicent Simmonds, a nonhearing actress, projects a strong, expressive presence. Her facility with American Sign Language and skill at reacting to the strategies of computer-generated monsters is admirable.
Along the way the pair run into a lone survivor, Emmett (Cillian Murphy), whom Evelyn convinces to go after Regan and bring her back. But he quickly recognizes the girl’s resourcefulness and determination to go forward. They head off together on a quest for the origin of the signal.
Meanwhile Evelyn, who is one tough mother, goes off to hunt down medical supplies for Marcus, whose leg has been wounded in an animal trap. He is left behind to defend their infant. Jupe, who suffered nobly at the hands of his father in Shia LaBeouf’s Honey Boy, adeptly maintains stoic resolve despite truly horrific circumstances. He suffers aplenty, but this time around it is the women who must save the day. If A Quiet Place was about family duty and propagating the human species, A Quiet Place Part II sees females as our ultimate salvation.
The opening sequence offers a rousing introduction to the slim backstory. Off in the distance, during a little league baseball game, a bright object falls from the sky. The exposition wastes no time with explanations about where the aliens are from or why they want to decimate the human race. (Perhaps an homage to H.G. Wells’s War of the Worlds?) Survival is the primary motivation, and the film’s unrelenting series of unexpected attacks generate considerable tension, peril that jumps back and forth between Regan, Evelyn, and Marcus. Viewers will no doubt be startled out their recliner movie seats. But A Quiet Place Part II is opening widely in movie houses, so the primal satisfactions of a collective gasp are back! After a year or more of watching films on television and plasma screens, the primal joys of the big screen have returned. And A Quiet Place Part II is a real popcorn movie — if the theater is popping popcorn again.
Tim Jackson was an assistant professor of Digital Film and Video for 20 years. His music career in Boston began in the 1970s and includes some 20 groups, recordings, national and international tours, and contributions to film soundtracks. He studied theater and English as an undergraduate, and has also has worked helter skelter as an actor and member of SAG and AFTRA since the 1980s. He has directed three feature documentaries: Chaos and Order: Making American Theater about the American Repertory Theater; Radical Jesters, which profiles the practices of 11 interventionist artists and agit-prop performance groups; When Things Go Wrong: The Robin Lane Story, and the short film The American Gurner. He is a member of the Boston Society of Film Critics. You can read more of his work on his blog.