Synopsis – A deaf woman is stalked by a psychotic killer in her secluded home.
My Take – Films based on the horror sub genre home invasion have been done to the death. From a general audience point of view, it has become really tiring to sit through this kind of a horror movie which runs for the usual 90 minutes consisting of just non stop screams and unnecessary gore. While, some are great (You’re Next), some are tolerable (The Strangers) and some are downright terrible (Tiger House). So how does one make their home invasion film stand out from the rest? There has to be some twist on the story to make it memorable. You’re Next (2011) was a great deconstruction of the genre itself and had the heroine be a survival specialist. And even though the killers in The Strangers (2008) had no apparent motive, the film ended up being a a very tense and effective horror movie. The twist writer/director Mike Flanagan brings us lies in the fact that our protagonist if completely deaf. The films unique quality of the character’s disabilities made way for some greatly intense opportunities throughout the film. This quality gave the film a new avenue to take in order to frighten the audience and it took it. The tension of many scenes of the film are built around dramatic irony. The story follows Maddie (Kate Siegel), a successful author who became both deaf and mute at the of age 13 due to meningitis and its following failed surgery. Despite her success, she has isolated herself and lives in a small place in the forest with her neighbors Sarah (Samantha Sloyan) and John (Michael Trucco) probably being her only friends. One fateful night, as she sits down to write her follow up novel, a psychopathic killer (John Gallagher Jr.) reaches her home, who despite many warnings is determined to kill her. Thus begins a fight for the survival of the fittest. Director Mike Flanagan‘s film is a stellar example of how to create intense thriller with simple premise.
It starts with a small cast and modest run time, but it capitalizes on every chance to instill any available tension. The deaf main protagonist presents exactly this kind of opportunity to exploit the already volatile situation into uniquely compelling sequences. The high level of suspense found in this movie is primarily achieved through to Flanagan‘s clever direction, and use of silence as a crucial horror element. The shock of a killer with the audacity to walk straight into the victim’s house and stand watching her without her realizing remains a very powerful thing to watch. Too many horror/thriller movies these days are trying to speed up the action (take the ‘Friday the 13th‘ remake in 2009 for example where ‘Jason’ even runs) and are consequently losing the thing that makes horror great – tension. Look at the original ‘Halloween‘ by John Carpenter, a studio would never let you make a horror film that slowly paced in this day and age, and yet ‘Halloween‘ is considered one of the greatest horror films of all time. The use of foreshadowing is great, from the smoke alarm to the alternative endings of Maddie’s novels. Although obvious due to the majority of the films 15 minutes of dialogue being spent talking about the two, they are linked into the plot really well, especially the multiple endings. From the moment the multiple novel endings were mentioned I kept asking myself; “how many endings will this film have and which one will they go with?” The film had me hooked from the start to see the film through to the end. Another key element that makes or breaks this film is the sound design. I felt like the crew pulled it off and we have a solid thriller on our hands here. A simple premise that is only made interesting by the fact that she is deaf and how the filmmakers decide to handle that aspect of the story. While the film does inevitably go down routine routes with the story, Flanagan does so with skill and finesse. Multiple times throughout the film we are in Maddie’s shoes as Flanagan completely mutes the audio. We see the terror happening behind her, but we cannot hear it. He can be entering the house at any point and we will not know. Flanagan manages to seep the viewer in suspense throughout the whole film and while there are some gory and squeamish scenes, he doesn’t rely on them. They feel real and earned. Looking back at the film there are multiple sequences where I was taken back or had a huge grin on my face with the ingenuity of it all. Director Mike Flanagan‘s attention to detail regarding little sounds made in the background was very prevalent. If you know horror movies, you know they usually create a more jumpy environment. The sharp screenplay written by the Flanagan and Kate Siegel (the lead playing Maddie) has led to the construction of a well crafted film.
Yes! It is a slow film, but for what it was trying to achieve the pace was perfect. Honestly, I didn’t really have many issues with this film. There is the matter of the obvious product placement. The start of this film feels more like a 20 minute Apple IPhone and IMac commercial due to the constant use of said products until John Gallaghar Jr‘s character has enough and starts nabbing them for himself. Also there really was no point in Maddie’s ex which is literally forgotten about in the course of the film, but to be honest it was probably for the best. Also there is probably an explanation for this as there has been discussion about it, but I have no idea what the significance of the crossbows tallies are and the way in which it was done still baffles me but I am sure that in the magical world of the internet there is a perfectly good and well analyzed explanation for the use at least visually. There are a few very difficult to watch scenes, one of the kills is particularly gruesome and is borderline exploitation, and when you know the killer is in the house, and the film goes into ‘deaf-mode’, it almost becomes unbearable to watch due to the extreme tension. The film does have the traditional tropes of the heroine being a terrible shot and running one way when she should go the other way, but in this instance, it only adds to the fun of the film, which is nothing more than a well executed high concept B-movie. Kate Siegel is definitely someone to look out for in the future. Kate Siegel gives a great performance in the lead role. I genuinely liked her and cared for her character, another thing frequently found lacking in modern horror – likable characters. Her acting gets you to cheer for the character, which makes you rejoice every time she gets ahead of the antagonist in any way. However, the real standout in this movie is John Gallagher Jr. as the serial killer. He was great in 10 Cloverfield Lane, but he is even better in this, and that is saying something. From the beginning to the end, he really messes with your head! After interesting well made films like Absentia, Occulus and Before I Wake (which unfortunately isn’t get a proper release every where due to its producers Relativity Media‘s bankruptcy), Mike Flanagan shows promise for a great future for Horror movies. I am genuinely excited to see Ouija 2 (2016), even though I hated the original one. On the whole, ‘Hush’ is an exceptionally thriller which takes the home invasion concept we’ve seen a million time before, and adds a unique twist on it which enables for some heart-pounding and tense moments. This isn’t a masterpiece, and it doesn’t want to be it either. If you are looking for a jump scare based film instead of slow burn thrill ride, this one is not for you or else just watch this now.
Directed – Mike Flanagan
Rated – R
Run Time – 81 minutes