This “creature feature” horror sequel starts with a flashback in a reassuringly typical horror style: at a smalltown baseball game with families gathered round. The Abbott parents, Evelyn and Lee, are watching their son play, sitting with their neighbour Emmett (Cillian Murphy).
Suddenly the teen Abbott son Marcus (Noah Jupe) misses a catch because he’s staring at the sky, and everyone gazes up with him. They see an object resembling a huge flaming meteorite heading slowly earthwards. Everyone sensibly decides to go home, but by the time they’re in their pickup trucks headed for safety, the huge alien insects have landed. And they’re picking off residents in their droves, guided by the tiniest of sounds, such as a local frantically muttering a prayer for safety.
So far, so conventional, but the pace then returns to the style of the 2018 first indie horror (small cast, big scares) and follows the Abbott family as they attempt to survive after the events of the first film, now with a newborn.
They meet Emmett again, now hiding in a deserted factory, and hear something on one of the few radio stations still broadcasting. They realise that there’s a band of survivors living on an island nearby. As the alien insects can’t swim, they reason, if they can somehow get there, things should be better. And they seem that way at first.
The Abbott mother Evelyn (Emily Blunt) is ever reliable as no-nonsense action heroine, although she plays a smaller role this time. Her screen – and real life – spouse John Krasinski appears briefly in the flashback but then stays behind the camera to direct. Murphy is also excellent as the grizzled neighbour, guiltily aware he never tried to get in touch with the Abbott family to see if they had survived after the outbreak.
There are a few implausible touches: Marcus has his leg caught by an iron leg trap in Emmett’s lair, but can still walk a few days later. Another flaw is that all the survivors are authentically muddy and messy haired in ripped monochrome rags, but Blunt by contrast still manages to look as though she’s just been glamping. She pulls off a fairly unlikely boho chic, all glossy locks and immaculate skin in a clean flowered dress.
The teen siblings Marcus and Regan (Millicent Simmonds) are given larger roles in the sequel and the film is a lot better for it. There’s an interesting angle in that both tween characters are fully drawn characters in their own right – not just there to be rescued by the adults. It’s also unusual in that Regan is profoundly deaf, as Simmonds is in real life, and uses a hearing aid. This is just written into her character and we see events develop occasionally from her silent perspective, adding more suspense. The scene where Regan determinedly explores a wrecked train on her own, with a huge insect-shaped hole carved in one side, is quietly unnerving.
Fast, creepy and effective all-out action horror, this will….silence the sequel fears of all horror fans.
Nina Romain is living proof that small children shouldn’t be taken trick-or-treating in Alabama in the 1980s – they tend to end up obsessed with the creepier side of Halloween! Her horror shorts tend to be shot half in the seedier side of Los Angeles and half in the darker side of the UK. She’s spending this Halloween dressed as a creepy clown at various London horror events and planning to eat her own weight in festive treats. You can find her on www.girlfright.com and IMDB.