A Quiet Place Part II (filmed at WNY) – Buffalo Rising
This film was shot at WNY, in locations that include Akron, Olcott, Dunkirk, Lackawanna and Buffalo (learn more).
A father rushes to buy oranges and water from a small town general store / pharmacy, supplies for his son’s baseball team. He returns to the stands to watch the game with his wife, two other children and his fellow citizens. The setting is a romanticized village… until it is overrun by a swarm of aliens descending from the sky, destroying buildings, vehicles and people. From this pre-alien (even pre-Covid) community romance, the story leaps forward over a year as the mother and her three children, including an unborn baby in this first scene, abandon their farm – barefoot and silent – in search of another human life.
This post-apocalyptic world is marked by missing people and missing sounds. Blind aliens use their ultra-sensitive hearing to identify prey, so the family must travel and communicate without oral language. The mother and the two older children are helped by American Sign Language, used in the family because the older daughter is deaf. A family friend is persuaded to help, but he doesn’t really replace dad, who is clearly gone. Instead, all four of them – mother, friend, daughter, and son – take on aspects of the roles that Dad filled, roles that are essential to staying alive.
A critical survival skill is emotional control to stay silent. A scream, even an overturned pill bottle, can be a death sentence. Just as family members jump and sometimes make sounds when surprised by the unexpected, the audience screams when surprised by sounds or movements. Family members feel guilty about not being able to control themselves, and the film has a participatory quality, as moviegoers, too, cannot contain their fear.
“A Quiet Place Part II” (and the first in the series as well) excels in the use of sound, and even more so in the use of silence. Almost the only words and music are diegetic (in the context of the story and heard by the characters, similar to the 2020 Oscar-winning “Best Sound” from “The Sound of Metal”). Since the characters must be mostly silent, the film is mostly silent. When sound punctuates this silence, it carries a power of surprise and horror.
The story also thrives thanks to its two young actors: Millicent Simmonds (deaf and a native ASL “speaker”) as Regan and Noah Jupe (“Honey Boy”, 2019 and “Wonder”, 2017) in the role of Marcus. In a gender role reversal, the deaf and older young teenager Regan is the stronger of the two, and makes him the stronger character in the film, once a dad (director and screenwriter John Krasinski, of TV’s “The Office “and” Tom Clancy’s Jack Ryan “) is sent. Marcus is a young Bert Lahr in the role of the cowardly lion in” The Wizard of Oz “(1939); he must find his courage.
It’s a strength of the film that the characters all carry weight. The mother (a worthy and besieged Emily Blunt) is resourceful, if not as fully a leader as Regan. Daddy’s replacement Emmett (famous Irish actor Cillian Murphy, who has appeared in several Christopher Nolan films) goes from heartbreak and angst to taking on some responsibility for the clan – not quite dad, but enough good. Marcus finds both courage and a role of nurturing the infant.
In one of the many quotes of places and methods from other films, the age-old technique of the cross-section (“Birth of a Nation”, 1915) is amplified not to two, but to three crossed narratives, with the aliens coming after our heroes in different places at the same time. The radio station and use of radio equipment is reminiscent of “War of the Worlds” (radio drama from 1938), “American Graffiti” (1973) and “The Vast of Night” from last year. There is even a reference to the shower scene in “Psycho” (1960).
The setting for Part 2 is post-industrial America: abandoned railroad lines and factories, commonplaces west of New York City, where he was filmed; even the grain elevators (iconic to the city of Buffalo) play a role. Here, the rubbish of a once thriving industry (and radio) evokes a mixed nostalgia, in part for the small town life that opens the film, in part for a pre-globalizing industrial America (albeit the factories don’t were not considered ideal places to work at the time). Ostensibly forward-looking, this sci-fi / horror film narrative is actually more often nostalgic for an idealized past.
There are flaws in “A Quiet Place II” including the triple cross section when pushed to excess, an artificial scene of danger and escape from a grain elevator, a dock scene with caricatured and menacing low lives (in this case, humans ones), and a few “surprises” that seem silly or undeserved. These deficits are offset by the charms: the strength of the characters, its astute response to the alien threat, and the exceptional use of sound (the film must be seen on the big screen for that reason alone). As one of the first to open widely in post-Covid theaters, albeit with lingering limitations in Covid audience size, this sequel fared well, grossing over $ 47 million in during its first weekend, almost as much as its pre-Covid predecessor. Part of that popularity is due to the film’s reserve, its noticeable retention of blood and blood. “A Quiet Place Part II” is a family fare – you could say “horror-lite”.
Date: 2020 (creation in March 2020, but release planned until May 2021)
Stars: 3 (out of 4 stars)
Director: John Krasinski
With: Emily Blunt, Millicent Simmonds, Noah Jupe, Cillian Murphy, John Krasinski
Languages: English, American Sign Language (English subtitles)
Duration: 97 minutes
Availability: In theaters now (including AMC Market Arcade 8, North Park Theater, Regal Elmwood, and Amherst Theater), streaming on Paramount + starting July 12; see JustWatch here for updates.
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