Wednesday, 4 May 2016

Hush (2016): Review

Hush is a 2016 psychological horror. Directed by Mike Flanagan (Oculus) and starring Katie Siegel (The Curse of the Black Dahlia) and John Gallagher Jr (10 Cloverfield Lane). There are only 15 minutes of dialogue in the entire 81 minute running time.

The film focuses on Maddie (Siegel), a deaf-mute author who lives in the remote countryside. After a visit from her neighbour Sarah, she settles down for the evening to work on an ending to her novel but quickly realises she is not alone. A terrifying masked intruder (Gallagher Jr) appears outside her house but doesn’t enter, instead choosing to taunt her. Once he realises her disability, he removes his mask and a cat and mouse game ensues as they battle between sight and sound in an effort to outwit each other. Maddie has to use all her other senses, and creative mind, in order to devise an escape plan and survive the night.

This film came to my attention through a Stephen King tweet which proclaimed “How good is Hush? Up there with Halloween!” (1978). This is a bold claim indeed but it does share a lot of DNA with the horror classic in it’s atmosphere, tension and ingenious use of light and dark. On top of this it utilises sound engineering to a masterful level and, what could have been a restrictive premise for some, ends up being a triumph in originality. This is due, in no small part, to a strong central performance by Siegel in what feels like a very authentic portrayal of a deaf character and really helps to establish a level of vulnerability rarely seen in other home invasion movies.

Fresh off his recent turn in 10 Cloverfield Lane , Gallagher Jr plays an excellent villain and, although I was initially disappointed that the mask came off so early, his expressionless, thousand yard stare proved to be just as chilling. Perhaps the filmmakers wanted to have the initial impact of a masked intruder without drawing too many comparisons with films like Halloween and You’re Next (2013), however, these have turned out to be favourable comparisons. A feature I also really liked is when Maddie is planning possible escape routes and these are actually visualised and we see how these will play out. It comes across as a sort of superpower she has as someone who has to rely heavily on sight and who is also an author, possible endings to her own story.

As you’d expect from a film which is mostly silent and has 2 characters, there are times when it does a drag a little, however, Flanagan does a sterling job keeping the tension ramped up so that the film rarely loses steam. Stephen King is prone to hyperbolic statements, is it as good as Halloween? Absoultely not, but it is one of the most creative and original genre pieces of the last year and demands your attention.

**** 4 Stars

What did you think of the film? Has King overrated it?


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