How to follow up a film like A Quiet Place? Seeing as its best quality was its originality, you can’t really just give more of the same. And the plot – basically, a group of people need to stay quiet to avoid being destroyed by aliens – was barely enough to cover 90 minutes, let alone a second film. And yet, this sequel contains enough style to justify itself.
Again, we kick off with an impressive opening. An empty village which we remember from the first film. Yet, although the streets are deserted, something is different. Gradually we hear sounds – a dog barking, a radio playing. Everyone is down at the baseball ground where a little league game is in progress. A caption appears: “Day 1”.
We see the father of the family who starred in the first film. As conversation is now allowed, he is given a name – Lee. As his son goes in to bat, we see clouds of smoke. Before long, the scary lizard aliens have arrived and laid waste to the village. The family escapes, soon to reappear on Day 400 and something – sans dad, who was killed off in the first film.
Again, the plot is simple enough. They come across an old mate of dad, who is first cagey and suspicious but is drawn into offering help. The cute deaf daughter leaves on a mission, and as mother can’t leave her baby, she sends dad’s old mate in chase. Then she decides she can leave her baby with her young son and a tank of oxygen after all and goes off to the shops.
Once more, there are some terrific set pieces, and the Jaws-y score is manipulative enough to stop our hearts on regular occasions. Once more, the acting is superb – not least by Millicent Simmonds as the feisty daughter who is essentially carrying on dad’s role from the previous film. And the pace is usually quick enough for us to ignore the inconsistencies, but not quite.
The film is definitely worth seeing, but it also irritated me no end. In the first film, the evil reptiles were lightning fast – one minute someone is walking through the countryside, the next there’s a whoosh and they’re a handful of dust. Now there are several scenes where a character wards off a monster which cowers undecided in frame – the equivalent of a Bond villain explaining their motivation, giving Bond enough time to escape.
This is not only inconsistent, it makes for bad drama. For most of the first film, tension was ramped up because although it looked like nothing was going on, you knew that any minute that would change. Now suddenly the invincible reptiles are fallible after all, which makes them much less scary.
And then there’s the way in which the fates of the characters mirror each other. For most of the film, we are shown first three, later two, parallel stories – of the daughter, accompanied by dad’s mate, of the son who’s been dumped with the baby, and of mum making out on her own. And time and time again, their actions mirror each other.
So, we see each one in turn walking through bleak countryside while anticipatory music plays until a monster appears. Then we see each use the dubious strategy we saw in the previous film of using amplified feedback to buy themselves some time. And then each one in turn slays the beast which has been pursuing them.
And I’m sure some Great Artistic Point is being made here, but the fact that pretty much the same thing is happening to different people at the same time adds to a sense of artificiality. And I know its a strange thing to say about a film about blind space lizards which destroy you if you make a noise, this just doesn’t ring true. It makes it all seem like a story which someone is just making up.
It’s a story worth hearing, and yes this is a good looking film that is worth watching. But I get the feeling that its gone as far as it can go without getting pretty tiresome. Enjoy the second film, but I’m not really sure that we need a third.