By Lynn Venhaus

Still terrifying and unnerving, the third chapter of this durable horror science fiction franchise presents a smart origin story, “A Quiet Place: Day One.”

That’s no small feat, given the popularity of the first two films that were co-written, directed and starred John Krasinski. He contributed to the story here, is a producer, and will be back with a Part 3 to continue the Abbott family saga.

“A Quiet Place” in 2018 set up a chilling post-apocalyptic world, where the Abbotts are trying to survive – dad Lee (Krasinski), mom Evelyn (Emily Blunt) and children, deaf daughter Regan (Millicent Simmonds), son Marcus (Noah Jupe) and toddler Beau. They live in a small, tight-knit community in Millbrook, New York, in the Hudson Valley, and action commences about 89 days after the June 18, 2020, attack.

The sequel in 2021 saw the remaining Abbotts expand their horizons beyond their farm. That’s when family friend Emmett (Cillian Murphy) and Henri (Djimon Hounsou), known as “Man on the Island,” are introduced, and it’s been about 474 days since the monsters wreaked havoc on Earth. Henri shows up in the prequel, adding a nifty thread.

They have discovered the creatures can’t swim, so escaping to water is a safe bet, and for the Abbotts, they find out another weakness, and use high-frequency audio feedback from Regan’s cochlear implant as a weapon.

“A Quiet Place: Part 2” gave us a glimpse of the aliens’ arrival, but this prequel takes place in the first four days of the chaos and moves the action to hustling and bustling noisy New York City.

A prickly cancer patient, Samira (Lupita Nyong’o) is on a group trip to New York City with fellow hospice residents and their nurse Reuben (Alex Wolff) when an alien invasion sends the world into silence.

That’s because the blind ‘Death Angel’ marauders have super-sensitive hearing and will brutally swoop in for the kill when hunting by sound. Sam gets separated, and on a quest for her childhood favorite pizza — she’s determined to get to Patsy’s in East Harlem, she encounters law student Eric (Joseph Quinn), and they help each other fight for survival.

There’s added dread, reminiscent of the shock of 9-11, as the panic-stricken populace struggles to escape grisly deaths. And to see the subways paralyzed, skyscrapers danger zones as those swift aliens crawl lightning-fast over every surface, and an anxious, shell-shocked humanity is unsettling.

Every car alarm, luggage wheel traveling over city streets, stepping delicately on crunchy debris, and general urban cacophony is magnified, and when people forget that silence is golden, calling out to loved ones or having an emotional meltdown, they’re goners.

Now one would think using this clever device of sound being death’s calling card would grow tiresome, but it doesn’t. I was still on the edge of my seat with every snap, crackle and pop after the three films, and eager for Part 3.

The best thing about this franchise is the thrilling communal movie-going experience it provides. I have fond memories of being in a very still crowd watching the first six years ago, where every soda slurp and popcorn munch was magnified, and the cathartic release that came when Evelyn had the baby, by herself, in the bathtub. The tension was practically unbearable– and Blunt vanquished those evil marauders in fine fierce form.

The sequel was the first movie I saw in a theater post-pandemic shut down, in May 2021, and it was such a celebratory event that even the jump scares were welcome.

Cut to a warm June night last week where I joined fellow fans collectively holding our breaths as the engaging new characters tried to outsmart the creatures. The jump scare is a doozy, and the crowd loved it. Sharing suspense is such a pleasurable big-screen experience!

Those critters are ugly! The CGI is remarkably seamless and the sound design, always the movie’s strongest suit, is at another state-of-the-art level.

While the first film was stingy in its reveal of the grotesque beasts, and the second time, lengthier in full view, this time we get various looks – a particularly terrifying one is when they scatter, like spiders, over all the tall buildings. Wisely, director Michael Sarnoski refrained from too much gore.

But the personal emotional connection of the characters has always been key to this franchise’s commercial success. Original co-screenwriters Scott Beck and Bryan Woods had helped create memorable characters that we cared about and Sarnoski does the same here.

Stand-offish Sam might be initially an unlikable lead character, but as you learn her backstory, sympathy builds, especially with her service cat Frodo. Lost soul Eric, a guy from England unfamiliar with America, is a stranger in a strange land angle that works, particularly his compassion.

How they cling to each other to make it through each hour keeps focus on the ferocious fight to stay alive, whether Sam is scribbling in a journal, or Eric makes a treacherous trek to get her thermal fentanyl patches for her Stage 4 cancer pain.

Lupita Nyong’o, Oscar winner for “12 Years a Slave,” has found a good niche in horror films, as her memorable turn in Jordan Peele’s “Us,” indicated. Like the best silent film actresses, she conveys so much with a glance.

Equally expressive is Joseph Quinn, mostly known as Eddie in “Stranger Things,” who will be in the upcoming “Gladiator 2.” He is convincing as an earnest guy dazed by the predicament but one who finds practical solutions to situations they find themselves in as they roam the city. He’s resourceful, and that comes in handy.

Their unlikely, but touching, bond is the reason this series remains compelling, but also handing this project off to Sarnoski was a bold and wise move. With fresh characters and a new location, he maintains the tension.

Sarnoski scored big with a small drama he directed and wrote, “Pig,” in 2021. He resuscitated Nicolas Cage’s reputation, giving him one of his best roles as a grieving former gourmet chef (St. Louis Film Critics Association’s Best Actor). It’s now streaming on Hulu, worth seeing. And Alex Wolff, a prominent brash character in “Pig,” is the kind hospice nurse Reuben in “Day One.” Wolff, who has made his mark in horror movies, including “Hereditary,” “Old,” and “My Friend Dahmer,” is a calming presence here.

Sarnoski’s different approach, while honoring the origin’s intentions, keeps its zing. The lurking destroyers remain very creepy, and the goal of a safe haven means all hope is not lost.

Each movie has offered its own well-crafted tone and tempo, and this runtime is 100 minutes, compared to the original’s 90 minutes, and Part 2’s 97 minutes.

“A Quiet Place: Day One” takes us on a familiar course in frightening fashion, touching on tender moments that make life worth living while dealing with a dystopian future no one saw coming. Challenge met.

“A Quiet Place: Day One” is a 2024 horror sci-fi drama directed by Michael Sarnoski and starring Lupita Nyong’o, Joseph Quinn, Alex Wolff and Djimon Hounsou. It is rated PG-13 for terror and violent content/bloody images and the run time is 1 hour, 40 minutes. It opened in theatres June 28. Lynn’s Grade: B+.

 By Lynn Venhaus
For a pulse-pounding 97 minutes, “A Quiet Place Part II” delivers a satisfying sequel that broadens the original story with clever moves and adds to its superb cast.

Writer-director John Krasinski, who directed and co-wrote the original, has built more tension-filled sequences and delivered well-timed jump scares. He maintains what made the 2018 film uniquely scary when any noise would attract the monsters.

The Abbotts – Evelyn, her children Regan, Marcus and infant, leave their home to try to find a safer haven in the outside world. With the creatures who hunt by sound still wreaking death and destruction, it is a precarious journey – and they discover these creepy aliens are not the only threats lurking on their post-apocalyptic path.

Now, after a 14-month delay because of the coronavirus pandemic, the film has eerie parallels to what we went through in quarantine – but had been completed for a March 2020 opening.

It may be the first movie to entice people back to the local multiplexes, kicking off the traditional summer movie season. It’s comforting to share the suspense with others in a communal setting, as we emerge from our isolation to be frightened by a vastly different world.

With masterful editing from Michael Shawver, the fear is palpable, and the importance of keen sound design magnified by what may be waiting for the humans if detected. Every snap, crackle and pop are excruciating.

For the first scene, we are taken back to the Before Times – an ordinary Saturday afternoon in the small town where kids and parents are on the local ball diamond, when the sky fills with a mysterious visual as something hurtles towards earth. Quickly, parents grab their children and attempt to head home when the invading aliens pounce. The danger escalates, which leads to the events of the first film. In this flashback, Krasinski returns briefly as Lee, trying to herd his family to safety.

Part II takes up at Day 474, when the surviving Abbotts venture from their farmhouse cocoon to explore the outside world, in hopes of finding people at bonfire encampments while not attracting the marauding predators.

While the first film was stingy in its reveal of the grotesque beasts, which are giant fast-moving spidery lizard-like forms whose lethal big bite is as sharp as knives, this time they are often shown up-close. Their ferociousness is on full display, which ratchets up the terror.

The smart and resourceful Abbotts get out of numerous jams but are never far from being dinner.

Daughter Regan (Millicent Simmonds), who is deaf, hatches a plan after suspecting Bobby Darin’s song, “Beyond the Sea,” heard repeatedly on a radio station, is a signal. She takes off to save her family – and humanity – while mom Evelyn (Emily Blunt) implores their former friend and neighbor Emmett (Cillian Murphy) to go after her.

The casting of the Irish actor is genius. Almost unrecognizable with a shaggy beard and blue-collar wardrobe, Murphy convincingly plays a grieving husband and father whose undercurrent of sadness provides an emotional depth, and his expressive eyes aid in the nonverbal acting.

Emmett has made a solitary fortress in an old steel mill that he reluctantly shares with the Abbotts. Haunted by losing his family, he spends his days drawing photos of his little boy and protecting his turf. He has a pessimistic view of civilization.

As Regan’s protector on their journey to find an oasis, Emmett is challenged as well – but fights like hell to survive as his strength builds. When the pair reach a coastal island, Djimon Hounsou – in a small but pivotal role — plays a helpful resident.

Because of widening the scope, Krasinski has less for Blunt to do, but she is effective as the panic-stricken mother trying to protect her children at all costs.

The child actors stand out, particularly Millicent Simmonds as the deaf girl who is very intuitive. Her lack of hearing is crucial to the story, as in the first, and so is her cochlear implant.

While you can be cynical about that plot device, and think the film resembles M. Night Shyamalan’s “Signs” from 2002 because of another plot twist, I think the characters are worth following. Original co-screenwriters Scott Beck and Bryan Woods had helped create memorable characters that we cared about and still engage three years’ later.

Krasinski counts on moviegoers to remember key elements of the first film without too much rehashing and gives a few hints. He keeps the film moving at a good clip.

The film leaves us wanting more and is set up for a third installment. What happens in that bubble could still intrigue because of the ensemble’s outstanding work.

“A Quiet Place Part II” is even more unsettling than the first as we can really feel the uncertainty based on our own COVID-19 experiences.

“A Quiet Place Part II” is a 2020 sci-fi, horror film directed John Krasinski, starring Emily Blunt, Cillian Murphy, Noah Jupe, Millcent Simmonds and Djimon Hounsou. Rated PG-13 for terror, violence and bloody/disturbing images, the run time is 1 hour, 37 minutes. Only in theaters May 28. Lynn’s Grade: A.