Home > Reviews > A QUIET PLACE PART II – Marco Beltrami

A QUIET PLACE PART II – Marco Beltrami

Original Review by Jonathan Broxton

One of the most high-profile cinematic casualties of the coronavirus shutdown was A Quiet Place Part II, which had had its world premiere and was all set to play in theaters in March 2020, before everything went away and the pandemic closed down the movies. Now, 14 months later, the film has finally been released, to a great deal of critical acclaim and encouraging box office figures. The film is a direct sequel to the 2018 original, and again stars Emily Blunt as Evelyn, who is trying to survive in the aftermath of an alien invasion. The vicious aliens – which are blind but possess incredibly acute hearing – killed Evelyn’s husband in the first film, but her deaf daughter Regan (Millicent Simmonds) discovered a certain frequency that briefly incapacitate the aliens long enough for them to be killed. Now, Evelyn and her three children venture out into the world to tell people about Regan’s discovery in the hope that they can defeat the aliens, but encounter a number of equally dangerous human threats along the way. The film co-stars Noah Jupe, Cillian Murphy, and Djimon Hounsou, and is directed by John Krasinski, who also appears in flashbacks as Evelyn’s late husband.

The score for A Quiet Place Part II is by Marco Beltrami, who also provided the music for the first film, with additional music by his regular co-conspirators Buck Sanders, Miles Hankins, Brandon Roberts, Marcus Trumpp, and Steve Davis. As was the case previously sound – or the absence of it – plays a major role in defining the tone of the film. As the monsters attack and slaughter any living thing that makes a noise, there is virtually no spoken dialogue in the entire movie, and the characters communicate mostly through sign language, which means that all the film’s emotional drivers come from the sound effects and its score. As such, much of the score is driven by the tone and sound of the first film, and builds on its themes and motifs.

In my review of the first Quiet Place score I mused about my relationship with incredibly dissonant horror scores, and how I often have trouble reconciling the difference between how effective it is in context and how difficult it is to enjoy as a listening experience on CD. I could repeat myself verbatim here because A Quiet Place Part II has many of the same issues, where there are long sequences of angry, harsh, difficult action/horror music on the album which work really well in context, but are very challenging to appreciate on their own.

Cues like the opening “From the Beginning,” plus later cues like “Moving In,” “Training Day,” and “Mother and Child,” wholeheartedly embrace the musical stylistics of aggressive avant-garde orchestral-electronic horror, many of which reprise the ‘monster motif’ from the first film, a guttural descending brass idea which was originally inspired by the late Jóhann Jóhannsson’s score for Sicario. “Moving In” also includes some intriguing sound effects – heartbeats, the sound of blood rushing through your ears, electronic distortions – which seemingly represent the ‘sounds’ that Regan hears through her cochlear implant, especially the way it reacts when she is in the proximity of a monster.

Thankfully – and this is where A Quiet Place Part II surpasses its predecessor – there is a lot more tonal, accessible music counterbalancing the carnage. The 5-note family theme from the first film appears again, and there is also a longer variation on that theme that seems to specifically represent the growth of Regan and her importance to the overall story. In an interview with Susannah Edelbaum for the Motion Picture Association website, Beltrami elaborates on his family theme by saying that “the concept behind the thematic material in this was that, since they’d been living in silence for so long, maybe they had forgotten a bit what music sounds like. So how could I reflect that in the score? I detuned all the black notes on a piano by a quarter tone so that they would sound a little bit off, almost like the memory of what a piano is supposed to sound like is fading. Thematically, that was one way I achieved that.”

This de-tuned piano idea appears in several of the score’s more intimate and quiet moments, offering respite from the onslaught elsewhere. Beltrami also works a great deal more tonal string writing into several cues; for example, “Leaving the Farm” features a lonely solo violin offset by soft metallic textures, offering an unusual emotional mixture of relief and resignation, considering the events that unfolded in the finale of the first film. Later, “Regan On Her Own” uses the strings in a different way, initially making them sound strained and anguished, before eventually offering hints of fluttering warmth. “Family Ties” combines these ideas with variations on the family theme from the first film, resulting in a sense of hesitant hope that the frequency from Regan’s implant will allow humanity to fight back.

The score’s new theme relates to Cillian Murphy’s character, Emmet, an old friend of Evelyn’s husband who has now become a reclusive survivalist. Emmet’s theme first appears in “Show Me Your Face,” and initially has a broken, distressed sound rendered by overlapping string textures, but Beltrami foreshadows the character’s importance and eventual heroism with an undercurrent of morose beauty. The theme returns later in the first half of the surprisingly lovely “Emmet’s Realizations,” before the whole thing descends into action/horror rhythms in the second half.

These action motifs dominate the rest of the score. The main action motif from the first film – a relentless, pulsating riff for cellos and double basses – is not as prominent this time around, but some of the ostinatos Beltrami uses here are no less exciting. “Watch Us Run” explodes with a series of intensely rhythmic figures that dart between percussion, brass, and strings. Later, “You Scream You Die” is intense and has a sense of dangerous anticipation, eventually embracing wholeheartedly the score’s horror tone, and featuring some interesting writing for rhythmic strings and crashing pianos. “Dive” is perhaps my favorite action sequence – monsters on a boat! – because it sees Beltrami engaging in some interesting interplay between several different metallic percussion items, which gives the whole thing an unusual timbre and rhythmic base. The emotional finale for slow, intimate strings is also worth waiting for.

“Entering the Station” is the film’s all-action finale – screaming strings, thumps and crashes galore – before the subsequent “Encouraging Feedback” returns to present a final full statement of the main Family Theme from the first film; here, the detuned piano and the fragile strings slowly pick up a series of warm, rich harmonies that recognize the positivity of the film’s conclusion, before the whole thing eventually rises to a powerful finale, with a full thematic statement of the theme given the sweeping orchestral treatment. The conclusive “A Grateful Family” is determined and resolute, where layers of strings, dramatic chord progressions, and extensive use of brass and percussion under the strings give it a sense of power. The piece contains a new thematic idea – possibly a resolution/combination of the Family theme and/or Emmet’s theme – with a positive major-key phrasing in the strings.

A Quiet Place Part II is a decent contemporary horror score for a franchise which clearly has legs and an audience eager to explore this world in future films. Beltrami’s work here is, for me, an improvement on the original, mainly because there is an increased thematic content in play, helping to temper the viciousness and violence of the horror dissonance that so dominates the first score. It’s difficult to strike that balance – obviously, the composer has to serve the film first, and if gruesome musical carnage is what the film needs, then that’s what the film needs. However, the fact that A Quiet Place Part II also takes time to explore the inherent humanity of its characters, and how they go about reclaiming that in the face of their terribly deadly circumstances, meant that Beltrami was able to address that side of the story in more musical depth than he was on the first film, and that’s a good thing for all concerned.

Buy the Quiet Place Part II soundtrack from the Movie Music UK Store

Track Listing:

  • From the Beginning (0:51)
  • Leaving the Farm (1:34)
  • Watch Us Run (2:01)
  • Moving In (2:26)
  • Show Me Your Face (1:17)
  • Regan On Her Own (1:18)
  • Training Day (2:38)
  • Mother and Child (1:42)
  • Family Ties (2:44)
  • You Scream You Die (6:31)
  • Dive (3:44)
  • Emmet’s Realizations (2:06)
  • Entering the Station (4:13)
  • Encouraging Feedback (2:10)
  • A Grateful Family (2:09)

Running Time: 37 minutes 88 seconds

La-La Land Records LLLCD1540 (2021)

Music composed by Marco Beltrami. Conducted by Pete Anthony. Orchestrations by Pete Anthony, Rossano Galante, Mark Graham, Andrew Kinney and Dana Niu. Additional music by Buck Sanders, Miles Hankins, Brandon Roberts, Marcus Trumpp and Steve Davis. Recorded and mixed by Tyson Lozensky. Edited by Nancy Allen, Jim Schultz and Del Spiva. Album produced by Marco Beltrami and Buck Sanders.

  1. Paul Kauv
    July 2, 2021 at 6:50 am

    It’s Spiegel im Spiegel from Arvo 1978! For leaving farm track

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