April is pretty much the opposite of October – spring is in full flower, the weather is great, and the fall gloom that makes us ready for horror movies is months away. But rules are rules, so when a Friday the 13th falls in the middle of April we’ve got to watch horror movies like it’s the end of October.
Fortunately there are two great horror films in theaters this weekend. First, Blumhouse Productions is on hand with a new twist on an old idea. And one of the most surprising horror films we’ve seen in a while is still in theaters after it’s first rampage last weekend.
Truth or Dare (2018)
Truth or Dare is engineered like a new Final Destination franchise, in that it creates a pretty simple set of rules that offer filmmakers the opportunity to mess with and dispatch characters in creatively gruesome ways.
The story puts a bizarre supernatural spin on the party game that you know how to play, whether you’ve ever taken part or not. A group of friends on a trip to Mexico is lured into a demonic game of truth or dare. The word “demonic” applies because in this game, players are compelled to play… and they can only choose truth so many times before facing deadly dangerous dares.
Basically, everyone might die. The film stars a super-talented young cast including Lucy Hale, Tyler Posey, Violett Beane, Hayden Szeto, and Landon Liboiron, and, as the first sentence of this paragraph already said, it puts all their characters through hell. After playing truth or dare with a stranger they realize there might be no escaping the game. And that’s a problem, not just because of the whole “they might die” part, but because the game has them revealing all sorts of intensely personal stuff. So the ones who don’t die will probably wish they did.
To make all this work, everyone in this movie starts with some hidden secrets. There are denied attractions, ill-advised hookups, substance abuse problems, and one character who hasn’t been able to reveal their sexuality to family. So truth or dare is kryptonite for this entire crew, even without some demonic spin that causes faces to morph out of shape and threatens intense but oddly entertaining bodily harm.
We don’t see a lot of movies lately that come from the old slasher mold; ghost stories have become way more popular in the past few years. Truth or Dare is both familiar and refreshing as it reminds us how much fun it can be to watch people try to escape a bleak fate, and we expect this party game could become an annual Blumhouse tradition.
A Quiet Place (2018)
The monster movie starring John Krasinski and Emily Blunt had its own beast of an opening when it arrived last weekend, and for good reason. This quiet film about a family trying to survive in a landscape full of monsters that react to sound is muscular and assured. It avoids tricks, instead confidently showing an about-to-expand family in this harsh environment.
A Quiet Place is set a year or so after monsters of uncertain origin decimated the human population of Earth. There’s no elaborate backstory to these creatures (wait for the sequel for that) but we know all we need to know: they’re attracted to sound, they move fast and converge in packs, and most people can survive for about half a second once they attack.
The Abbott family is one of a few groups of people left, at least in the US. The parents and their two kids have developed elaborate methods to live quietly, but there’s a complication on the way: a baby. When being quiet is the key to survival, giving birth and having a newborn around are pretty much the exact opposite of things you want.
So, yeah, A Quiet Place is kind of a huge metaphor for all sorts of anxieties around parenthood. But it’s a great one, with amazing monsters and perfect direction from John Krasinski, not to mention a commanding lead performance by Emily Blunt, and terrific supporting work from Noah Jupe as the Abbott’s son Marcus and particularly Millicent Simmonds as the couple’s deaf daughter Regan.
This film plays with convention in really cool ways; so much of horror is about sound, but A Quiet Place, for reasons that should be obvious, removes that option in many scenes. And then it’s still the scariest thing we’ve seen in ages. We get to look on as things go very wrong for the parents and their kids, and we try to stay quiet in theaters that are shockingly hushed. You’ve never had a movie experience like being in a cemetery-quiet theater when the monster appears and you can hear everyone in the room try to stay quiet while sucking in breath.
Truth or Dare and A Quiet Place are playing in theaters now.More Stories