Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Review: Hush

Maddie, fresh off the success of her first published mystery novel, has moved to the country in order to work through a break-up and on her follow-up novel. Things begin to fall apart rather quickly when she begins to get terrorized by a psychopath looking for his next victim.

There is an intrinsic terror in the home invasion genre because it could happen to anyone at anytime. Thankfully, I have been fortunate enough to have never dealt with that harsh reality. But in back end of the twentieth century and the first decade or so of the oughts, home invasion films became straight up horror films rather than taut thrillers with a horrific backdrop. As a result, most of these films became kind of lukewarm as the inherent scares and the added scares became at odds with each other.

Now that I have thoroughly buried the lead, Hush opens with a wrinkle that we are not often afforded in films of any genre: a deaf-mute protagonist. Yes, Maddie is deaf and mute, and as a result begins the film as an underdog. What would feel like a gimmick in less talented hands leads to a perfect way to endear us to root for Maddie as well as triumph with her in her victories. Add to that the fact that Katie Siegel is just likable as Maddie. She's clearly smart and funny and capable of holding her own. You remain thoroughly on her side and even when some of her decisions seem kind of myopic you understand where she is coming from. It is a perfect performance for this type of character.

I am not going to spoil the identity of the killer (in the reality of the film or the actor's name) but he is as cold blooded as they come. With his character in particular there are very wise choices about what he's wearing, how he hunts Maddie, and even the gear that he uses that color him in as a character. None of it really gets a big moment, we just get to notice it in little ways as the movie progresses. It's great filmmaking.

Speaking of great filmmaking, Hush is exceptionally well made on a technical level as well. Everything that is set-up in the opening act pays off in the remaining two acts. The camera movement is PURPOSEFUL to an almost Spielbergian degree and never shys away from long shots. The set pieces are tense and unpredictable, the list goes on. Mike Flanagan is a director to watch and is sure to be picked up by one of these shared universe franchise machines very soon.

Hush is a movie that not only brings the home invasion movie back to its thriller roots, it is a masterclass in how to make one of these movies. There are only 5 credited performances in the entire piece leaving a small, claustrophobic feeling over the entire affair. The film runs for only about 87 minutes ensuring that every sequence matters. Any way you look at it, Hush is a great movie full stop.

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