John Krasinski’s directorial debut in 2018 was an instant hit both commercially and critically, so a sequel was definitely on the horizon especially with the cliffhanger ending of the first. Horror hits usually are lightning in a bottle, with no amount of sequels or spin-offs able to capture the essence of what made the original work. Thankfully, Krasinski’s sequel not only captures what made the first film so great but is now free to go in many exciting and bold directions. It raises the stakes and delivers one of the best theater experiences ever, making it feel truly special to be back in the movie theater again.
The film takes place immediately after the events of the first film with the Abbot family fighting for survival against foreign creatures that are hypersensitive to sound. They must walk on sand to hide the noise of their footsteps, hold their breath, and hide as fast as they can or be killed in this post-apocalyptical world. When the Abbot family start to realize that more people may seem to be alive, they embark on a journey to find hope and hopefully put an end to this nightmare.
While the first film allowed us to see the rules and setting of this world, the second film is more free of those restraints and able to tell a gripping story while maintaining everything that made the first one great. At the heart of the story is Millicent Simmonds as the eldest daughter of the Abbot family and the daunting task to fill the shoes of her late father. While there are many strong performances in the film, Simmonds definitely takes the award home with the ferocious determination she maintains during the film. While the world around her crumbles, she strives to inspire hope in others and ultimately herself in order to survive. Her character goes through the most interesting progression that maintains the proper amount of heart, tension, and suspense that exceeds expectations.
The newest main addition to the cast is in the form of Cillian Murphy’s Emmett who serves as a stark contrast to Simmond’s optimism. While Simmond’s remains hopeful about the future, Emmett is someone who feels tired, lonely and ultimately defeated with everything he has had to endure. The scenes these two share together are among the highlights of the film providing the emotional backbone this film needs. The journey they embark on together has incredibly high stakes, remaining ripe with tense and cathartic moments.
Emily Blunt’s character, Evelyn, and the younger son, Marcus, aren’t given as profound journeys and character arcs but still deliver phenomenal performances that keep the momentum elevated. Their journey falls more in line with the claustrophobic feeling of the first film with our characters constantly in peril awaiting some form of release from the fear. Every smart decision is met with an equally smart reaction from the creatures, and the escalation in this film is what makes it feel scarier and more nerve wracking then most were expecting. I do wish these characters were given a little more to do in terms of lasting implications for the overall plot, but nonetheless where the film comes together in the end provides another purely satisfying ending that remains true to where they started.
What makes this film better than the first one, in my opinion, is Krasinki’s excellent understanding of horror and tension and he plays on your expectations. This film definitely has a bit more jump scares than the first film, but the true scares comes in the fear of the unknown. Will these characters make it out alive? Did the creatures hear that noise? How are they going to sneak past them when they are that severely incapacitated? You truly care about each of these characters and you are constantly on edge wondering whether or not they will make out alive. When a character is in danger, you feel that danger and that is an impressive feat for a director to not only have its audience invested in the story, but also in the characters to the point where every roadblock they face is one you feel like you’re facing as well.
The film also steadily escalates its tension throughout with a strong opening act that showcases how these creatures came to be, then towards its conclusion where multiple characters start to come together. The first act feels like the beginnings of an alien invasion and all the fears and panic that come with it. Contrasted with the final act of the film where characters have to make quick yet quiet decisions to ensure that the plan goes accordingly. That balance makes the film feel more full than the first, and allows Krasinski to have a lot more fun playing in this world as opposed to establishing rules. There definitely is a lot of love and passion put into this project, which is excellent to see and I sincerely hope to see more from Krasinski in the future whether with this franchise or not.
Despite a few characters not receiving as much to do compared to others, this is an extremely strong horror sequel. Krasinski commands the screen in an excellently directed film that exceeds the foundation set by the first film. It retains what made the first special while also subtlety expanding the world and presenting a high stakes story that is sure to keep all audiences riveted. I can’t wait to see more from this world and specifically from Krasinski himself. If he keeps making films like this, I am sure to keep coming back.