Tag Archives: Bryan Woods

Hello Cleveland!

Haunt

by Hope Madden

Have you ever noticed how adorable Browns fans are during pre-season every year? Every year! There is always reason for optimism.

That’s how I feel about filmmakers with the “haunted house attraction that’ll really kill you” premise. Year after year (The Houses October Built, 2014; 31, 2016; The Houses October Built 2, 2017; Hell Fest, 2018) somebody wheels out the stinky old corpse of an idea and says, “This year, we’ll get it right!”

The 2019 attempt belongs to writers/directors Scott Beck and Bryan Woods, who struck silent film gold last year with the screenplay for A Quiet Place. (In retrospect, maybe we didn’t give co-writer/director John Krasinski enough credit for that one.)

Haunt follows a handful of college students seeking thrills on Halloween. They stumble upon an isolated haunted house attraction—with not one single visitor. On Halloween night. Kids! Come on! Clearly it’s either the lamest thing on earth or it will kill you. This isn’t rocket science.

And yet, they give up their cell phones, sign some waivers and enter.

Katie Stevens is Harper, damaged but mainly wholesome brunette and center of gravity for the group. Will Brittain is Nathan, pre-requisite “will they or won’t they” nice fella who sees past Harper’s prickly exterior.

In truth, the actors playing the six gullible youths all perform above expectation and, mercifully, Beck and Woods choose not to subject us to the couple that just can’t keep their hands to themselves.

Made sensibly and economically, Haunt sticks to what it knows and focuses on what it came to do. Gaps in logic are few (they’re there, but they’re not distracting). One or two of the kills offer intrigue and the villains are, if not especially impressive, at least kind of fun.

It’s adequate. Unlike the Browns. The Browns are going all the way this year. No doubt. No doubt about it.

Shush!

A Quiet Place

by Hope Madden

Damn.

So, John Krasinski. That big, tall guy, kind of doughy faced? Married to Emily Blunt? Dude can direct the shit out of a horror movie.

Krasinski co-writes, directs and stars in the smart, nerve-wracking gut-punch of a monster flick, A Quiet Place.

Krasinski plays the patriarch of a close-knit family trying to survive the post-alien-invasion apocalypse by staying really, really quiet. The beasts use sound to hunt, but the family is prepared. They already know sign language because their oldest, played by Millicent Simmonds (Wondertruck) is deaf.

A blessing and a curse, that, since she can’t tell if she makes noise, nor can she tell if a creature comes calling.

Simmonds is wonderful as the conflicted adolescent, her authenticity matched by the tender, terrified performance given by Noah Jupe (Wonder) playing her younger brother.

As their expecting mother, Emily Blunt is magnificent, as is her way. Simultaneously fierce and vulnerable, she’s the family’s center of gravity and the heart of husband (onscreen and off) Krasinski’s film.

But you expect that from Emily Blunt. She’s amazing.

What you may not expect is Krasinski’s masterful direction: where and when the camera lingers or cuts away, how often and how much he shows the monsters, when he decides the silence will generate the most dread and when he chooses to let Marco Beltrami’s ominous score do that work for him.

The script, penned by Krasinski with horror veterans Bryan Woods and Scott Beck, stays one step ahead of your complaints. Just as you think, “Why haven’t they done this?” a clear explanation floats across the screen, either as translated sign language, a prop on a table or a headline in Dad’s gadget-laden basement bunker.

It’s smart in the way it’s written, sly in its direction and spot-on in its ability to pile on the mayhem in the final reel without feeling gimmicky or silly.

And the monsters are kick ass. That’s a big deal.

At its heart lies a sweet sentiment about family, but sentiment does not get in the way of scares. A Quiet Place works your nerves like few films can.