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{Movie Review} Sweet and Quiet

November 5, 2022

Hell is a suburban book club where everyone likes to read Mein Kempf. Or at least director Beth de Araújo hypothesizes. Having survived the Trump administration and the pandemic as a public school teacher, I can agree. The past two years have seen a rise in white nationalism and fascist behavior from the more mundane groups. Local school boards and parent-teacher associations have been infiltrated by a group of far-right political actors who don’t want to improve education, but want to bring the culture wars into our classrooms. Soft and quiet gives us an afternoon’s look at what could happen if any of these groups had the power and the ability to do whatever they want. In short, it’s not pretty. Soft and quiet is important and compelling and difficult to watch. It’s the horror in this familiar way that has us all staring sideways at our neighbor wearing a MAGA hat.

Emily (Stefanie Estes) is an elementary school teacher struggling to get pregnant. She also happens to be a founding member of a group of concerned white women who meet regularly to talk about how the country is being ruined by woke radical leftists and brown people. They are essentially the Ku Klux Karens. Estes’ performance is manic and desperate at times, making the audience feel like we’re constantly teetering from scene to scene. A heavier scenario than the previous one. The film follows Emily as she finishes her day as a teacher and heads straight to the neo-Nazi meeting she is sponsoring. As the meeting progresses we meet the other members of his group (some of whom wear their Nazi colors on their sleeves, as if literally). After the formal meeting is over, a small group continues to discuss how to turn thought into action around wine. A chance encounter at the store gives them this misguided opportunity and the day spirals out of control. What follows is a brutal, albeit very direct, account of what can happen when we let the fascists breathe. Hyperbolic talk leads to action that no one could see coming (except we can ALL SEE IT COMING). Beth de Araújo shouts behind the camera not only that something like this COULD happen, but it already is.

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The rhythm of Soft and quiet is so tight that it only adds to the brutality we see on screen. It happens in the blink of an eye. Women lose control and people lose their lives as a result. The film doesn’t give you time to breathe, and that’s the point. Once the roller coaster starts there is no way down and if the fact is that we are about to board the undemocratic roller coaster then Soft and quiet achieves its goals. I am terrified. The horror of the film comes from the recognizable archetypes we see every day. More like movies like Humans who offers his own dark vision of the world Soft and quiet doesn’t need monsters because we have all these monsters inside us. It’s almost as if this country was built on the backs of slaves and the monsters that tormented them.

Properly shot and lit, the film has a dull patina that reflects the subject. It looks like a movie shot in Washington state for the region’s unique political demographics and the gloominess of the filter works well. Technically, the film is excellent. Everyone involved is on the same page and that passion and direction makes the art exquisite even if it is sometimes hard to watch. Soft and quiet will go straight to the movies folder that I’m glad I watched once but have no desire to see again (looking you straight in the eye Requiem for a Dream).

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If the film has any flaws, it would be that its brutality makes it more of a drama or thriller, but its lack of horror tropes and other cues make it hard to classify as true horror. Even in the age of high horror it would be difficult to characterize Soft and quiet as horror. The film’s deadly seriousness makes it unfun to watch. At the end of the film, I just wanted the nightmare to end. That’s more or less how I felt about the Trump administration. At some point, you get sick of the cruelty of it all. I think maybe that was the point. You can consult Soft and quiet on VOD now.

Tyler Unsell

Tyler has been the editor of Signal Horizon since its inception. He is also the director of Monsters 101 at Truman State University, a course that combines horror movie criticism with survival skills to help middle and high school students learn critical thinking. When he’s not watching, teaching, or thinking about horror, he’s the director of debate and forensics at a high school in Kansas City, Missouri.

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