Hush (2016)

Hush_2016_poster

Hush is half a great home invasion/slasher thriller with a nice twist. The other half? Not so much.

Co-written and directed by Mike Flanagan, who previously found success with the better-than-expected Oculus back in 2013, Hush tells the story of Maddie (Katie Siegel, who co-wrote the script), a writer who lost her hearing and speech following a bout of illness in her youth. She’s published her first book and lives alone in a secluded area trying to finish off her second and to forget about a former boyfriend. One night, a mysterious masked assailant (John Gallagher Jr) appears at her house, intent on terrifying the poor young woman before killing her.

It’s a simple premise without much of a need for any explanation, but the deaf and mute protagonist certainly does add an interesting wrinkle to the well-trodden genre. Not being able to hear danger when it’s right behind you, and of course, not being able to scream, does create a sense of terror audiences aren’t as used to seeing. It makes us realise just how vulnerable we become when we can’t hear and can’t speak — something as simple as calling the police becomes a challenge, and you immediately become at a disadvantage to whoever is trying to hunt you down. I like how Flanagan would occasionally switch to Maddie’s point of view — well, kind of — so that the sound is heavily muted, providing a nice contrast to the hysteria of the fight for survival.

For at least the first half of the movie, probably even two-thirds, Hush is an effective thriller thanks to the premise and some skillful execution from Flanagan. Gallagher Jr is fantastic as the creepy antagonist, quite a revelation given that he plays completely different characters in the only two other things I’ve seen him in — The Newsroom (on TV) and more recently, 10 Cloverfield Lane.

Unfortunately, at some point in the second half of the film, the pace and tension begins to lag, and Flanagan begins resorting to my pet hate for such thrillers — relying on the stupidity of the characters to come up with ways to create more tension and prolong the running time (the film’s only 81 minutes, by the way). The thing is, Maddie actually seemed like quite an intelligent person up until that point, but then suddenly turns into a moron who gives up about a dozen chances to escape and kill the assailant, who also suddenly becomes dim-witted so as to match her. On top of that, the film begins to toss in a bunch of cheap tricks before limping to a predictable and nonsensical climax.

It’s a real shame, because you tend to remember movies like this for the bad taste it leaves in your mouth rather than all the good that came before it. By the time the credits started rolling, I had gone from really enjoying Hush to rather disliking it. Writing this review, however, as put things in a bit more perspective, and the positives of the movie have risen back to the surface. The film does start off well and has some nice moments and effective atmosphere, and because of that it still has more going for it than the majority of movies in the genre.

3 stars out of 5

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