I have never been a huge fan of movie theaters and was trying to avoid them long before coronavirus first made headlines—that is until A Quiet Place Part II lured me in.
I hate the smell of buttered popcorn. I hate ringing cellphones and crying toddlers that pull me out of my immersion. I hate sitting through trailers for soulless Hollywood blockbusters I’m not interested in seeing. I hate film students telling me to enjoy their short films that conveniently double as glorified Coca Cola commercials.
These are all things I don’t have to deal with when watching Netflix in bed, so when my brother convinced me to come see A Quiet Place Part II at our local Regal, I thought I would be in for a pretty annoying evening. In the beginning, it definitely seemed so. The guy who handed us our tickets warned me that the seats may be “a little moist” from cleaning, which I thought was a slight exaggeration but actually turned out to be a tremendous understatement.
Having suffered through the popcorn, the cellphones, the toddlers (how’d they get in?) and the blockbusters, I was anxious for the movie to start. But before that happened, the bearded face of John Krasinski (known to most audience members as Jim from The Office) quickly popped up in front of the projector to thank me for coming out to see his newest film inside an actual cinema, the sort of place where—and forgive me for slightly paraphrasing here—it’s “supposed”to be seen.
Despite all of the above, not to mention the fact that my pants were soaked with Kleenex-juice, it only took me a few minutes into A Quiet Place Part II to realize that Krasinski—who may well have recorded that aforementioned bit while the board of Regal Cinemas held him at gunpoint—was right: This is a film you should see in a dark room with a big screen in front of you and an even bigger stereo behind you. Preferably in the company of others.
A Quiet Place Part II: Watch and Listen
Considering the premise of the film, this should not come as a surprise. As the name suggests, A Quiet Place Part II is the long-awaited sequel to a wildly popular 2016 horror movie titled A Quiet Place, which tells the story of an ordinary American family that tries to survive after our planet gets invaded by blind aliens armed with sharp claws and an even sharper sense of hearing. Now for the twist that separates A Quiet Place from the yoke of lesser horror movie—two of the protagonists are deaf.
Unless you hold a boom for a living, chances are you don’t listen for sounds when watching a movie. However, when as much as the crackle of a leaf under the sole of your foot can send a swarm of hulking, bloodthirsty monsters sprinting your way, you’re gonna pay attention to whatever noises you make. It’s true for the characters, and it’s true for the audience who, thanks to state-of-the-art audio systems found only in cinemas (and private cinemas of rich people), hold their breath at every turn of the camera.
I doubt the same would happen if you were to watch A Quiet Place Part II at home on a smartphone while your family listens to music and your neighbor mows the lawn. It’s likely one of the reasons why Krasinski’s movie, which wrapped up shooting all the way back in September 2019, waited patiently for the cinemas to open back up. Knowing this, Krasinski’s Regal-endorsed thank you note actually starts sounding rather genuine.
The Indies Strike Back
To say cinema chains have had a tough year would be putting it mildly. Blockbusters that are being indefinitely delayed (like No Time to Die and Black Widow) or were moved straight to streaming instead (think Pixar’s Soul) continue to keep audiences indoors even as restrictions have started to relax. But while the studio system languishes, indie cinema is finding creative solutions to stay afloat in a time when streaming reigns supreme and crowded rooms have become scarier than empty alleyways.
Big players such as Disney and Warner Bros. can afford to infinitely postpone their releases. Smaller companies like Bleecker Street Productions and IFC Films don’t have that luxury, and were surprised by the amount of people their movies were able to attract even during a global pandemic. According to one report, IFC Films made more money in 2020 than it had in years. Maybe that’s due to the communities built around indie cinema chains. Maybe it’s due to the fact that indie films, unlike their Hollywood counterparts, still bother reinventing the artform in ways that warrant a theatrical release.
Come to think of it, A Quiet Place Part II isn’t the only movie I would rather watch inside a cinema as opposed to in my bedroom. Christopher Nolan’s realistic war drama Dunkirk comes to mind, as do any of the trippy animated movies on this list. I’m talking about films that place particular emphasis on the sense—namely sight and sound—and, as a result, include a myriad of small and subtle details that would be lost on the viewer were they to watch them on a screen as small as an iPhone’s.
Perhaps, with the help of directors like Krasinski, cinemas will be able to get people inside again even as most journalist herald the iconic institution’s inevitable death. As far as A Quiet Place Part II is concerned, though, what better setting for a horror movie than a gravesite?