PLOT After Earth is invaded by aliens that hunt by sound, a woman and her neighbor struggle to survive.
CAST Emily Blunt, Cillian Murphy, Millicent Simmonds
RATED PG-13 (scary scenes and brief gore)
WHERE Area theaters
BOTTOM LINE Not as strong as the 2018 original, but a solid horror sequel best seen on a big screen.
If you’re considering a return to theaters this weekend, consider a ticket to "A Quiet Place Part II." Set in a world overrun by aliens who use exquisitely fine hearing to hunt humans, it’s a movie that relies on a big screen and a top-notch sound system to magnify the smallest detail — like a bare foot on a stairstep — into a blaring alarm of terror. This sequel may not be as inventive as its predecessor, but it delivers plenty of white-knuckle tension and satisfying scares.
The story rewinds to the events that preceded "A Quiet Place," the 2018 horror hit directed by and starring John Krasinski. He and Emily Blunt return as Lee and Evelyn Abbott, first seen in the local park enjoying an afternoon of Little League baseball, hot dogs and beers. (The two actors are married in real life as well.) This small-town idyll is interrupted by flaming objects — meteors? Spaceships? — that streak across the sky and dump a horde of reptilian monsters right onto Main Street. The opening sequence, shot partially in a single take as Evelyn jumps into a car and swerves through the chaos, shows that Krasinski may have learned some directors’ tricks while starring in "Jack Ryan," his action-thriller series for Prime Video.
The Abbotts are well-positioned to survive in silence thanks to their deaf daughter, Regan (Millicent Simmonds, herself deaf), who has taught the family sign language. Nevertheless, more than a year after the invasion, Evelyn is in trouble: Her son Marcus (Noah Jupe) is critically injured, she’s caring for a newborn and her husband is gone. Enter Emmett, played by the fine Irish actor Cillian Murphy ("The Wind That Shakes the Barley"). Murphy does a creditable job as a once-friendly neighbor — a roughneck with a good heart — hardened by loss and horror.
Krasinski is the sole writer on this sequel, and he’s good at hiding the weaknesses in his script. "A Quiet Place Part II" is really two half-movies stitched into one: While Emmett and Regan venture out to investigate the origins of a mysterious radio broadcast, Evelyn and Marcus hunker down and fend off the occasional threat. The road trip narrative is the more compelling one, because it brings us into contact with other people (including a dehumanized scuzzball played by Scoot McNairy). Back at home base, the various crises feel contrived. But because Krasinski directs at such a fast, confident clip and keeps his focus on suspense, the movie never feels slack. There’s always a monster lurking somewhere, just about to turn its ghastly head in your direction.
That’s another reason to see "A Quiet Place Part II" in theaters: You’ll definitely want a couple of armrests to grip.