a quiet place <br>part ii

Running time: 97 minutes. Rated PG-13 (terror, violence and bloody/disturbing images.) In theaters.

Spoiler alert: It’s still very quiet.

“A Quiet Place Part II,” the sequel to 2018’s surprise horror hit, is a direct continuation of the first film, with mom Evelyn (Emily Blunt) and her three kids tip-toeing away from their upstate New York farm in search of safety after their finale clash. (It’s opening Friday in theaters only, but is expected to stream on Paramount+ sometime in July.)

The hugely enjoyable second entry doesn’t lift the franchise to new artistic heights, a la “The Empire Strikes Back,” but “Part II” is every bit as good and scary as its predecessor, and the characters, especially the kids, go to deeper and braver places.

Here’s a quick refresh. For more than a year, Earth has been overrun by animalistic aliens who are hypersensitive to sound. Sounds like me before 10 a.m.! Make any noise above a whisper and you’ll be a giant spider’s brunch in seconds. Survivors have developed strategies to stay alive, but there’s no hope on the horizon for a happy future.

If the first film was purely a story of survival, the sequel is all about discovery.

Writer-director John Krasinski likes his movies brisk, so we only visit a couple new settings this time — but important ones. The stop that’s OK to reveal is another man’s nearby barn. His name is Emmett (Cillian Murphy), and he’s a moody fellow who didn’t like Evelyn’s husband Lee (Krasinski) very much and doesn’t want to give them shelter. He changes his tune when he sees her newborn baby.

What Krasinski — who first mastered the whisper as Jim on “The Office” — is so skilled at is taking a few visceral elements and stirring up our fears with them. For instance, in this deadly hellscape, it’s hard not to constantly worry about a baby. 

Another brilliant idea was putting a furnace in the cellar of Emmett’s barn where people can hide from the creatures for about 15 minutes before running out of air. If you’re not careful, you’ll be locked in. It’s bigger than some New York apartments, and as frightening as some New York apartments.

Blunt, of course, is a force in these movies, especially in moments when her maternal need to protect her kids turns her into a gun-toting superhero. However, it’s the young cast who really excels here. Regan (Millicent Simmonds) takes charge now and heads out in search of other people, finding peril and treachery at every turn. Meanwhile, Marcus (Noah Jupe, a big talent) stays back at the barn and protects the little one from what’s lurking outside.

In the heart-stopping end sequence, three separate experiences of Evelyn, Regan and Marcus are edited together to create 10 minutes of nonstop stress.

A third “Quiet Place” is already in the works, making this sci-fi horror series a trilogy. If that film ends with the destruction of our alien foes, I hope Krasinski can balance such a big move with the intimacy and intelligence that have made his jewel of a series such a standout.

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