There isn’t one false note in Beth de Araújo’s horrific “Soft & Quiet” which reflects the current pulse of the nation. That in itself is frightening but what’s even more alarming is the fact that despite all the despicable acts of violence and hatred that transpire in the film, none of them are shocking. Over the history of cinema, female monsters have included the Bride of Frankenstein, Mary Brady in “Sleepwalkers,” Sil in “Species,” Red in “Us,” and now we have “Karen” the term used to describe middle-class women who feel entitled by their white privilege. As the film’s title suggests they operate on the down-low, in fact, you probably live near, work with, or know someone like the women you’ll meet in what could be the most unnerving film to carry the Blumhouse signature.

Pretending that something doesn’t exist, doesn’t make it go away. Filmmaker Beth de Araújo, whose mother is Chinese-American and whose father is Brazilian, chose to confront white supremacy head-on while challenging the moviegoer to do the same. By simply watching “Soft & Quiet” you too are choosing to confront the alarming movement intent on forcing society to regress.

The film takes place in real-time as events unfold beginning with the introduction of kindergarten schoolteacher Emily (Stephanie Estes) who we meet after school has recessed for the day. The first thing you notice about her is the glaring look she gives the non-white custodial staff. Within a few minutes, she is forcing a first grader waiting for his mother into an unwarranted altercation with the janitor in what becomes the film’s first example of white privilege.

As Emily walks away from the school, home-baked pie in her hands, she heads down a trail in the rural countryside towards a church where she is holding the inaugural meeting of her new women’s club. On the way, she meets Leslie (Olivia Luccardi) who is headed to the meeting at the invitation of Emily’s best friend Kim (Dana Millican), a mother and owner of a small convenience store. Leslie is Kim’s new employee and it’s obvious that Kim doesn’t believe in background checks if your skin color is white.

Soon we are introduced to the rest of the group, Marjorie (Eleanore Pienta) a young woman recently passed over for a promotion that went to a “Columbian girl” and without hearing any more details the words “That’s not fair” come spewing out of another attendee’s mouth.

Alice (Rebekah Wiggins) states she attended the meeting with Emily’s persistence but she’s glad she came because it’s making her “Feel more like myself” and as she talks about growing the group by recruiting more like-minded individuals, she gets up and writes the word “Recruit” on a dry-erase board titled “Daughters for Aryan Unity”. If the swastika carved in the middle of Emily’s cherry pie didn’t give away the club’s purpose, there’s no doubt now about their agenda, but for the people in the back we’re introduced to pregnant blonde Jessica (Shannon Mahoney) a Southern gal who begins her introduction with “My daddy was the chapter President of the KKK in Valentine, Nebraska”.

After throwing out a mandatory “All Lives Matter” and blaming the 1960s for the decay of family values, they offer support to each other, including matchmaking for a couple of single ladies at the meeting. They talk of putting together a magazine as Emily reminds the group, “We can’t come on too strong” followed by “Soft on the outside, so vigorous ideas can be digested more easily” stating they are a secret weapon that no one checks at the door “Because we tread quietly.”

The ladies decide to continue the conversation at Emily’s house but not before stopping by Kim’s store to pick up a few bottles of wine. While there two Asian women, Anne (Melissa Paulo) and her sister Lily (Cissy Ly), thinking the store is open, walk in to purchase some wine and suddenly all the racist fervor these women have been spewing for the last thirty minutes becomes focused on these two innocent women who walked into the wrong place at the wrong time.

The tension escalates as the setting moves to Anne’s home where an invasion meant to “put her in her place” goes horribly wrong, the events too grueling to watch. Emily’s boyfriend Craig (Jon Beavers) tags along to serve as a lookout and while he’s opposed to what the group intends to do, he becomes an accomplice after being slapped around and berated by Emily.

“Soft & Quiet” despite all its ugliness is compelling to watch as the first-rate cast encompasses the existence of every white privilege-minded individual who will be the first to tell you they are not racist. The film is intensified by the fact that it plays out in real-time, shot in one continuous take by cinematographer Greta Zozula who minimizes the jittery movements of the handheld camera.

Araújo began writing the film the day after the Amy Cooper incident in Central Park made national news, she is the white woman who accused an innocent black man of threatening her while he was simply birdwatching. Since then, “Karens” have become a national dilemma as women across the country who feel entitled by being white thought that they were suddenly given a hall pass after Trump became elected. The former President didn’t create these individuals who as the film’s title suggests have always been around. In the 90’s they were referred to as “Becky” but if you go all the way back to Antebellum Period, the term used then was “Miss Ann”.

It’s understandable that the individuals who need to see this film the most, won’t. For everyone else, “Soft & Quiet” serves as a poignant reminder that the characters on screen exist in every facet of our lives. To put it in the context of Anthony Hopkins’ Van Helsing speech in “Bram Stoker’s Dracula,” “She lives beyond the grace of God, a wanderer in the outer darkness. These creatures do not die like the bee after the first sting, but instead, grow strong once infected. So, my friends, we fight not one beast but legions that go on age after age after age” suddenly vampyrs don’t seem as terrifying or threatening as these real housewives.

(3 ½ stars)

Now showing at the Texas Theatre and available on Digital

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Joe Friar head and shoulders

Joe Friar

Member of the Critics Choice Association (CCA), Latino Entertainment Journalists Association (LEJA), the Houston Film Critics Society, and a Rotten Tomatoes approved critic.