Hush Review

Hush is a 2016 horror/thriller written/directed by Mike Flanagan and co-written by Kate Siegle, who also stars in the film as the lead. The film has received mixed responses since its release. On the one hand, critics have praised it as an excellent exercise in tense film making, while audiences have been less forgiving, giving it only a 66% on IMDB.

Story
A young writer (Kate Siegle), who is both deaf and mute, lives in a secluded cabin in the middle of the woods. One night, she is set upon by a mysterious psychopath, who wants to do nothing more than play a sadistic little game with her before murdering her. She can't hear him or call for help. All she can do is hope to survive until day light.

The set up is genius in regards to horror and tension-filled possibilities. With her disabilities it makes it easier for our villain to sneak up on her multiple times and while she doesn't know he's behind her, the audience does which makes us extremely tense. There are also several great mini moments of tension, like when the psycho comes around the corner of the house just in time to see her trying to escape from a window. He rushes to kill her, she rushes to shut the window and it makes for a really great moment of suspense.

The two main characters are actually really good. You genuinely care about the main character; she's likable, a bit funny and intelligent. Perhaps we're also prompted to care for her because she has these disabilities and we're taught all our lives to treat disabled people with more than usual patience and mercy, almost like their fragile. The main villain is genuinely detestable. He's so cocky, sadistic and psychotic that you just want him to die already. The few times the hero actually manages to hurt him I actually cheered in my seat. The one complaint I have with the villain, though, is the fact that they show you his face. In the beginning of the film he has this simple, yet frighteningly creepy mask that added a little to him as a character. He never spoke while wearing the mask, you couldn't tell his emotions and this gave him a bit of an inhuman quality which I found really unsettling. I was expecting and hoping that they would just keep his mask on for the entire film, but they have him take it off in the first 20mins or so. And it's not like it's a huge twist or anything, like it was somebody we already met. It's just some guy we've never seen before. After that he's no longer the mysterious masked killer. Now he's just some random psycho who decided to kill people because reasons.

The screenplay is pretty good for there not being much talking. However, when there is talking I was actually surprised how natural it sounded. The hero's friends talk to her like they're talking to somebody with a disability; slightly awkward, a little quiet and not really sure how they should be talking to her. It's also really interesting how much they can do without dialogue. Not much of the movie is spent talking, but rather just setting up tense scenarios.

Technical
This is another minimalist film and while that's fine for what it was trying to do it doesn't give me a lot to talk about in this section. The costumes are functional, but don't offer any deeper insight into the characters through either color or design.

They do many interesting things with sound and this is where a lot of visual storytelling comes in, especially at the beginning. To show the audience that we're looking at a deaf person they first show us her cooking a meal: chopping tomatoes, there's something frying in a pan and a whole bunch of other things that are making noise. Then, we get an extreme close up on her ear as the sound fades. We go back to shots of the food being cut and frying and roasting and we hear nothing. I thought it was a very clever way of visually telling us what we need to know.

In the beginning I thought they were going to do something very interesting with the lighting. When the killer first comes to her house and she first realizes he's there the power is still on. There's night, warm light filling the house and everything seems peaceful. I thought they were going to have it like that the whole time as if to say that even places that look and feel safe like a well-lit house can be dangerous when you least expect it. However, either that's not what they had in mind or they just gave up on the idea because he cuts the power a couple of minutes later.

The performance by the lead is very impressive. Despite having no actual dialogue she gives a captivating performance just through her facial expressions. The actor playing the killer is fine, if a bit over the top to the point wear it's not scary anymore, unfortunately. However, Siegle's performance saves whatever intensity the killer's actor might've killed.

Summary: Hush is a refreshing bit of thriller/horror that honestly could've been better with a few plot point changes (seriously, why did you give him such a creepy mask if you were only going to make him take it off five minutes later?). However, it does its job by keeping up the intensity, introducing engaging scenarios within a really interesting set up and having some very satisfying moments thrown in. Good stuff over all and definitely worth a watch if you're getting bored of the modern horror scene.

A-

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