2018’s horror thriller A Quiet Place is one of the bigger surprises of 2018 not because it was actor John Krasinski’s second time in the director’s chair, but because it used the conventions of horror to tell a compelling and intimate family story complimented by some of the best sound design of the year. 2020 was to see the release of A Quiet Place Part II, a continuation of the Abbott family’s journey of survival in an apocalyptic world beset by sound-sensitive alien invaders. So convinced was Paramount Pictures that it would release then, most large outlets had already previewed the film and the cast had engaged in junkets. The release would not come as the lockdowns began just before the initial March 18th release date, putting the film on an indefinite hold as Krasinski publicly proclaimed that this should be a film seen in theaters. Though other releases would see a VOD release, A Quiet Place Part II would not until May 28th, 2021, and, again, only in theaters. If you didn’t feel comfortable at the theater then, take comfort in the upcoming physical release which sees Part II coming available on 4K UHD with Dolby Atmos and Dolby Vision, Blu-ray, DVD, and digital.
Picking up literal moment after the end of A Quiet Place, A Quiet Place II rejoins the surviving members of the Abbott family — Evelyn, Regan, Marcus, and the unnamed newborn (Emily Blunt, Millicent Simmonds, and Noah Jupe respectively) — leave their damaged farm in search of safety. Unfortunately, this means leaving the sand path Lee Abbott (Krasinski) created and going out into the unknown. Though it leads to untold peril, it also leads to a discovery that might just help save the human race.
A word of caution before going forward:
Though this film was not reviewed for the theatrical release, there will still be some spoilers discussed as we move forward. Ordinarily I avoid doing this, but there’re some aspects of Part II that are on my mind which require digging into. To prevent ruining the film for folks who just want to know about the home release, I will begin by focusing on that and then provide a warning for when the spoilers may come.
For a film for which anticipation grew with each passing month, the home release is satisfying, but not bursting, with the bonus materials. Across five featurettes you’ll get more information on the film as it relates to the visual effects, the approach to shooting the film, as well as a drilldown into Simmond’s Regan. Evidently Krasinski shot Part II using film and practical on-set effects as much as possible, with only seven blue screen shots in the entire film and digital being used during the marina sequence. 4K releases always look better, especially when HDR is applied, when the source is a film negative rather than digital, and the quality is visible when watching the 4K release. You get the inky blacks and life-like lighting during night sequences without any compression artifacting, not to mention that you can still see what’s happening which is a particularly significant thing given that we can easily follow the action even at the high rate of speed the aliens move. During the daytime, the scenes maintain the intended tenor in line with the moment. The opening scene offers a glimpse of Day 1 when life was still normal and the look of the town is vibrant and very alive. Later, as the story requires venturing outward beyond the family farm, that vibrancy remains, which is a stark contrast against the ominous omnipresence of danger. Once again, the HDR doesn’t overpower the sequences, it merely makes them appear more natural and less stylized. Regarding sound, this release does come with Dolby Atmos for those whose home theaters are equipped for it. Ours is not, yet the only complaint I can give on the home experience is that some of the dialogue became hard to hear due to the constant in-film whispering requiring I turn on the captions. Unlike the first film, Part II introduces a character who doesn’t know sign language in the form of former neighbor Emmett (Cillian Murphy), so there’s more talking than we’re used to. Outside of this dialogue issue, the sound is used perfectly, even occasionally turning off entirely to offer the audience a sense of what things are like for Regan. If you found yourself on the edge of your seat during Part I, expect more of the same in Part II and, yes, it is equally satisfying.
One downside of the special features is there is no commentary track. The original release didn’t include one either, so this isn’t a break from tradition, but it would be nice to have more than a nine minute featurette to get Krasinski’s thoughts on the film, especially since he fully wrote the script this time around, not just adapted it.
This brings us to the full rundown on the special features. There isn’t much, but you will get a solid sense of the work that went into making the film. If that’s all you wanted to know, you’re set. If you’d like to know more, read on but I will get specific on narrative details. This is your spoiler warning.
In the “Director’s Diary” featurette, Krasinski describes the theme of Part I as a parent’s promise to protect their child, while Part II is about the broken promise. This zeroes in on exactly why I enjoy these films as much as I do — they speak to a part of myself I’m still trying to figure out. Kids don’t come with manuals and there’s no test or accreditation process when you become a parent. If you go to a hospital to give birth, they just let you walk out with your child upon discharge and that’s that. One moment you’re not a parent and the next you’ve got to suddenly be able to answer every question or concern this tiny human may ever have. The first film captures that struggle as Lee tries to keep his family safe through trauma large (alien invasion) and small (death of a sibling) and fails to the point that his eldest daughter pulls herself away from the family in her grief and self-blame. It’s not until just before Lee sacrifices himself to save his two eldest children that some kind of peace is made. This is the pain that runs through Part II: in order to keep his promise to protect his children, Lee had to break it. Now, in Part II, Regan and Marcus are forced to step up and lead, though one does it more begrudgingly than the other. In this way, Part II is more than just a continuation of the story, it’s an exploration of a family in transition.
The metaphor is obvious physically as Evelyn takes her first step off the sand path into unmapped locations, but it becomes more plain and anchored once the Abbotts come across Emmett’s home inside an abandoned mill. It’s here that Marcus is badly wounded stepping in a bear trap. At first, this is meant to be seen as a trap to slow down an alien attacker, but as the film explores the world beyond the Abbott farm, a haven carefully constructed and filled with love, and finds it gnarled and rotten after more than a year of trauma, there comes a terrible sense that the bear trap was also intended to stop a human from potentially threatening Emmett. There’s a cruelty in survival, which makes Regan’s discovery of the radio message via song a strange hope to cling to. Between Marcus’s injury and Regan’s discovery, there comes a split shift in the narrative, one which takes a while to find its footing, but sticks the landing in such a way that the theme becomes both wonderfully transparent and emotionally powerful. It’s not Evelyn and Lee who save the day, leading their children along via calculated risks; it’s Regan pushing through attack after attack, finding a true save haven on an island, and jamming her ear piece into the hot mic, imbuing anyone who hears the horrid noise with a weapon against the aliens. Simultaneously, it offers Marcus, injured though he may be, the means of dispatching the beast on his doorstep, enabling him to save his newborn sibling and injured mother. Part II is about the transition of child to adult and accomplishes this through the horrible vehicle of almost total human annihilation.
If there’s something from Part II that chips away at Lee and Regan’s idealism, that pokes a hole in the emotional through-line of the narrative, it’s that humanity has literally proven to be unsaveable from itself. Given the choice between helping others or savings one’s own, the Abbotts will try to do both to the best of their ability. Regan has this argument with Marcus, who is still reeling from losing his father, as she is determined to deploy their new-found weapon via a radio station — and she wins. The only reason she’s able to go on her, at first, solo mission, is because she believes so firmly in ending the assault and freeing the human race from these extraterrestrial parasites. However, after 16 months of COVID-19 terrorizing the United States, even more for other parts of the world, there are still those who find even the simplest preventative measures as an “assault on personal freedom,” declaring that their minor discomfort is more important than the health and safety of their neighbors. It’s easier to decry the truth than come face-to-face with the consequences of our actions. A reason why the global climate crisis is at a turning point where the current generation of children will never know the weather of their parents’ youth. The moon is theorized to wobble in the 2030s and, for the most part, people barely batted an eye. This is the primary weakness of Part II and all other horror films: the heroes are the outlier and the fall of humanity is the true expectation.
When it comes to the Quiet Place films, Krasinski is well in his element as actor, writer, and director. Both films allowed him to stretch and grow, serving up stories that are intimate and personal, while also creating an impressive sci-fi thrill-ride. Having not yet seen one of these films in theaters, the fact that they remain just as immersive at home as you might hear from theater-goers speaks to how well the stories are made from a technical and performance perspective. I knew from the moment Paramount announced Part II that I would see it and, if you felt that way, picking up Part II on home video is likely a no-brainer. You just need to decide which format fits your style and budget best.
A Quiet Place Part II Blu-ray & Digital Special Features
- Director’s Diary: Filming with John Krasinski (9:38)
- Pulling Back the Curtain (3:47)
- Regan’s Journey (6:19)
- Surviving the Marina (5:00)
- Detectable Disturbance: Visual Effects and Sound Design (8:25)
Available on digital July 13th, 2021.
Available on 4K UHD, Blu-ray, ad DVD July 27th, 2021.
For more information, head to the official A Quiet Place Part II website.
Final Score: 4 out of 5.