Review: Hush

Director(s)Mike Flanagan
Principal CastKate Siegel as Maddie Young
John Gallagher Jr. as The Assailant
Release Date 2016
Running Time81 minutes

Hush tells the story of Maddie, a deaf author, suffering from a particularly grueling case of writers’ block. Given her condition, she doesn’t notice when a nameless intruder stakes his claim in her house, hell bent on torturing her until it’s no longer fun and then killing her after. Little does he know that Maddie’s not ready to give in and she’s more resourceful than she looks.

This is the first Mike Flanagan movie I ever watched and is the first of many reasons why I will watch anything he makes (As of writing this, I’m only missing The Haunting of Hill House). Typically when I watch a movie, I have anywhere from a few to a lot of “Why don’t they just…?” or “That doesn’t make sense and would never happen!” thoughts. That issue happens far less often in a Flanagan movie because he spends time justifying every decision and helping the audience understand exactly what all the outs are. This movie takes great pain to humor the audience’s “what-if” scenarios, in a way that’s both logistically and visually satisfying.

The movie does a great job of establishing each of the main characters as individuals and as a cat-and-mouse pair that’s trying to take each the other one out. Siegel is excellent as the lead and manages to convey a lot of intention and emotion through excellent facial expressions and physical acting. She’s not allowed to talk in a traditional sense, so watching her “show” her thoughts makes the experience feel more personal. Within a few scenes, I was invested in her well-being and found myself rooting for her to win. She uses her circumstances and wit to constantly navigate the situation, so the movie feels unique in how competent the “final girl” starts off. It’s a refreshing change of pace that keeps the movie feeling fresh in a genre that needs new life injected into it. John Gallagher Jr. is unnerving as the unnamed assailant. He’s a total psychopath and the movie hammers that point in more than once. Early on, when he realizes Maddie is deaf, he decides it would be more fun to torture her and go in for the kill, because he could prolong it like a game. The cold, calm, and composed way John fulfills his actions makes it clear that the events in the movie are nothing more than sick and twisted entertainment for his character. Side characters are used effectively. None of them linger for longer than they need to and they’re presented as capable in their own right. It makes them feel like they’re real parts of the world, as opposed to throw-away characters meant to change the pace up and add new sources of tension.

Maddie’s condition is used to great effect and Flanagan has found a way to give her a voice in spite of her lack of speaking. Things happen in the background, and Maddie doesn’t turn around to look at them. It’s typical horror movie bad decision 101, but in her case it’s understandable because she can’t hear the noises of the “things” happening around her. It creates excellent square sequences where we see menacing things happen around her and know that she’s walking straight into harrowing circumstances.

Though the movie is deftly crafted and well-paced, it doesn’t do anything spectacular to change up the genre or make its themes refined. There’s a simple underlying story of defying expectations and using them to your advantage, but it’s only ever explored in one way. It’s relatable but not complex. That’s not a bad thing, but given how well executed and conceived the mechanics and performances are, the same level of nuance in the themes or story would have elevated this movie into something really great. Don’t get it twisted, this is one of the best slashers of the past decade. I just thought it had way more potential.

Report Card

TLDRHush is one of the best slashers of the past decade and is sure to entertain anyone who has a hankering for a bad-ass “final” girl. Deaf author vs sadistic psychopath plays out with a lot more finesse and nuance than you’d expect.There are innovative communication strategies, well executed chase sequences, and tons of chilling harrowing moments. Best part? It’s only 81 minutes, so you don’t need to spend a long time waiting around.
Grade A

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