Hush | Starring: Kate Siegel, John Gallagher Jr, Samantha Sloyan, Michael Trucco, Emma Graves | Screenwriters: Mike Flanagan & Kate Siegel | Director: Mike Flanagan
After crafting a pair of mind-bending supernatural thrillers in Absentia and Oculus, director Mike Flanagan pares away any frills and creates a film that plays to our baser instincts with Hush. Co-written by star Kate Siegel and co-produced by Intrepid Pictures and prolific horror company Blumhouse, Hush’s bones may be formed from a simple plot yet it is fleshed out with emphatic camera work, inventive use of sound editing and strong, demonstrative performances by its leads.
Hush quickly acquaints us with Maddie (Kate Siegel), an author who’s taken a respite of sorts from the hectic pace of modern life. A tenet of a modest cottage in what appears to be the middle of nowhere (this is already promising), Maddie nonetheless finds solace in her environs – with a cat named Bitch. When commiserating with neighbor Sarah (Samantha Sloyan) it’s unveiled Maddie is deaf and mute. Her impairment isn’t portrayed as a crutch, nor has it twisted her view of the world. Maddie simply and blissfully enjoys her everyday life, which involves typing a thousand words a night and attempting to keep the kitchen a fire-free zone. Unfortunately for her, the serenity of her homestead is hastily spoiled by a craven homicidal maniac.
The introduction of the killer (10 Cloverfield Lane’s John Gallagher Jr.) strikes the screen with an immediate, bloody impact. The man is as quick and efficient as he is brutal, easily dispatching any potential setbacks with practiced guile. Upon discovering Maddie’s condition, the killer appears genuinely amused in finding something new to kill. So the murderous nutjob bides his time, allowing his sadistic mind to formulate all sorts of sinister machinations. Not long after pacing outside and within Maddie’s home, he finally makes his presence known (after setting a few traps). The use of the mask is a brilliant means to emphasize the emotion between Siegel and Gallagher’s initial “conversation”. As the title eludes, there is little dialogue in the film. The eyes truly become windows into the characters’ souls; Siegel is battered by a surge of feelings throughout Hush as Gallagher’s psycho-killer engages a thousand-yard stare long devoid of empathy.
Naturally, a majority of Hush is from Maddie’s perspective, therefore many scenes or angles we’ve viewed in horror and thrillers before are made more anxiety-inducing once sound is taken out of the equation. What’s especially well done is the editing itself. By employing scant use of ambient sound and a minimalist score, moments like Maddie’s panicked breathing or leaves rustling while she hides provokes one to actually cringe, for fear the killer will easily hear what she cannot. It’s these little moments in Hush that work extremely well in ramping the tension up to an eleven.
What is also refreshing about the film is the killer and Maddie push each other to their limits. The killer isn’t an near-invulnerable murder machine as we’ve watched numerous times in our lives. Rather, he recognizes his weaknesses – along with his victims’ in order to torture them further. Neither one leaves a confrontation unscathed, becoming all the more weaker from increasingly grave wounds inflicted upon one another. As they trade blood for blood, their respective motivations are switched. Though the man is more than capable of ending her life at any time, Maddie’s creative insight and ability to “see” endings gives her an edge that balances out the killer instinct she lacks.
By the third act, the two have been thoroughly tested and more than ready to face one another as wounded animals, rather than hunter and prey. As Hush reaches its apex, most of your senses are now in play and bombarded by a torrent of light and sound. The film uncoils with an elaborate design that Flanagan and crew expertly pieced together with aplomb, ultimately presenting Maddie as something more than the sum of her parts. Once the shock and surreality of what she’s witnessed during the night subsides, Maddie is ready to fight for her life or die trying.
All in all, you’re in for a killer time.
(sorry, couldn’t help it)
Premium Members: We’ve chosen this film as our April Netflix and Chill podcast selection. Stay tuned for a date to leave podcast feedback for the film and to learn we’ll be recording the discussion.
Hush = 9.3/10