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By Vernor Rodgers
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"A QUIET PLACE"
Versatile actor John Krasinski gambled when he decided to direct "A Quiet Place," another post-apocalyptic horror story, but with a twist. It has paid off.

"A Quiet Place" is an exceptional scary movie and a successful one moneywise, closing in on $150 million at the box office. Not bad for a movie that cost $17 million to make.

Krasinski also collaborated on the screenplay with writers Brian Woods and Scott Beck. And he took on a main role and plays opposite his real-life wife, Emily Blunt.

The setup of "A Quiet Place" is similar to the 2017 movie "It Comes at Night." Both focus on families trying to survive in a world wherein a major disaster/invasion has killed millions and decimated any infrastructure. Those who remain alive must adhere to stringent routines to continue living.

While "It Comes at Night" never reveals what the disaster was or what the relentless threat continues to be, instead stressing how such an existence can lead to another horror of being forced to trust someone you do not know, "A Quiet Place" lets the audience in on what is so lethal. What is not presented is what these blood-thirsty creatures are and how they came to be. All we know is that they have keen hearing and just attack any sound they hear.

So Krasinski and Blunt play Lee and Evelyn Abbott, a couple with a deaf teen daughter, Regan (Millicent Simmonds, who really is deaf) and a pre-teen son, the somewhat fragile Marcus (Noah Jupe). Aside from her hearing impairment, Regan also feels guilt for inadvertently triggering a tragedy and believes her father has never forgiven her.

The Abbotts have set up a fortress/farm, complete with surveillance cameras, yet sometimes have to go to nearby towns to forage in silence for food to supplement what they can sow from the ground. Even within the more secure confines of their home they cannot make a sound.

Evelyn also is pregnant. Let's pause here. Was I the only one who wondered how the Abbotts conceived another child in an environment that demanded silent sex? And is Evelyn prepared to go through the stress and strain of childbirth without uttering a sound? 

That problem aside, "A Quiet Place" builds on tension as the family must continually put themselves at tremendous risks simply doing tasks needed to survive. Amid all this, Lee doggedly tries to put together an effective hearing aid for Megan, at least partly as a gesture to prove to the girl he still loves her.

As happens in life, circumstances arise in which Lee and Evelyn cannot be there to protect their children, and for Lee the greatest nightmare of not being able to even protect his wife.

In a film like "A Quiet Place," viewers have to be braced for the possibility someone will have to make the ultimate sacrifice and others will have to step up to ensure continued existence.

Krasinski does a fine job of maintaining tension and getting the story across, as well as developing character in a movie wherein dialogue is at a premium. Blunt builds strongly as a woman not only carrying an unborn child, but one who must unflinchingly go face to face with a terrifying presence.

Simmonds scores as Regan, a teen wrestling with guilt and someone who too easily misinterprets her father's actions. Jupe has some fine moments when his father forces him out of what comfort zone he has, a move necessary to prepare the boy for a time he no longer can be dependent on his parents.

 "A QUIET PLACE" Official Trailer:  https://youtu.be/WR7cc5t7tv8



"BLUMHOUSE'S TRUTH OR DARE"
Truth or dare has gained a lot of traction in the entertainment world, not only because it can trigger all kinds of emotional confrontations, but also because it is a ripe concept for horror. Just do a search of "truth or dare" on IMDB and you get a long list of projects that adopted that name. Even behind the camera, the "truth or dare" concept can create tension. My friend Jessica Cameron, who directed a movie titled "Truth or Dare" in 2013, has had to deal with other directors of "truth or dare" projects, harassing her because she has refused to change the title of her movie.

The latest "Truth or Dare" is a so-so effort that advertised it might be a turkey in the opening credits, listing four screenwriters, including the director, Jeff Wadlow. Collaborations that exceed three writers usually means   lot of problems with the script, thus many rewrites. Not good.

The horror version of "truth or dare" opens avenues of gore in the version of ghastly deaths. The participants are drawn in and too late realize the terrifying consequences. The dares are so brutal that they then opt for truths. But here is where the silliness escalates. Rather than reveal some benign truths, like admitting to wetting the bed as a child, or picking your nose or confessing you still listen to Donny Osmond records, these people resort to revealing sins like sleeping with a best friend's boyfriend, or finking on a friend who is being unfaithful, thus fracturing what had been stable relationships.

Blumhouse has earned a reputation for putting out some decent horror films (although diehard horror fans still insist mainstream horror movies are not nearly as good as less-costly but intense independent scary movies), but this one is not memorable at all.

Lucy Hale ("Pretty Little Liars) is Olivia Barron, a college student who is planning on doing social work during spring break but ends up being prodded by her lifelong best friend Markie Cameron (Violett Beane) into going with her to Mexico. So a group of young, mostly unsympathetic party animals go south of the border, where Olivia meets Carter (Landon Liboiron), a seemingly nice guy, who lures Olivia and her friends to an abandoned church and talks them into playing truth or dare.

But it is a trap set by Carter and soon Olivia and her friends learn to their horror they have been drawn into a version of truth or dare unleashed by a demon. As the body count piles up, and Olivia and Markie try to ride out serious bumps in their friendship, the young people try to find a way out before they are literally truth or dared to death.

The movie does offer some nasty deaths and stirs up emotional turmoil as dirty little secrets are revealed, but by the end of the movie, a sense of "who cares?" prevails.

 "BLUMHOUSE'S TRUTH OR DARE" Official Trailer:  https://youtu.be/BjRNY3u3bUw

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