Hush (2016)

11 May

HUSH16REV

Smith’s Verdict: ***1/2

Reviewed by Tanner Smith

How do you make the Home-Invasion Thriller feel fresh again? Make the heroine a survivalist who disposes of the invaders left and right (“You’re Next”)? Have it occur on the one night in which all crime is legal (“The Purge”)? Well, either of those could work (…and unfortunately, they didn’t work for me—I didn’t particularly like “You’re Next” or “The Purge,” two more recent home-invasion thrillers), but the point is there needs to be something fresh and new about a very familiar setup. When I heard this detail about “Hush,” director Mike Flanagan’s take on the Home-Invasion Thriller, I immediately wanted to see it—the woman in distress, whose home is being invaded by a psychopath, is deaf and mute.

Comparisons to the 1967 Audrey Hepburn thriller “Wait Until Dark” have been tossed around in reviews. But aside from a vulnerable woman making the most of her handicap in order to fend off people trying to hurt her in her home, there really isn’t much of a comparison. “Hush” and “Wait Until Dark” are two different films with different styles, different material, different situations, and even a different handicap. I think “Wait Until Dark” is the better film of the two, but “Hush” is still a well-done, effective chiller with enough tension and scares to make for a suitably unpleasant viewing when you’re alone at night. (I watched “Hush” alone in my room at night, with the lights off, to see how effective it would be.)

Like I said, the main character, a writer named Maddie (well-played by co-writer Kate Siegel), is both deaf and mute. She lives a quiet life while trying to finish her second novel in a nice, isolated house in the woods. Of course, this is the perfect place for a homicidal maniac to attack at night, and that’s exactly what happens. A masked man (John Gallagher, Jr.) arrives and starts to toy with her psychologically, sending her pictures he took from her phone to the laptop she’s using and severing all connections to potential help. She realizes what’s happening and finds herself in further danger when she discovers the body of a person the masked man has already killed and the masked man reveals his face, just so he can have reason to kill her. From that point on is a deadly game of cat-and-mouse with the deranged man sneaking around outside the house and the vulnerable Maddie desperately trying to outsmart him. Eventually, she finds the courage to fight back, having accepted her deafness as an advantage to inner strength.

“Hush” is director Mike Flanagan’s follow-up to an underrated supernatural chiller called “Oculus,” and he is a true talent in the horror-film genre. He does a terrific job at making the most out of a familiar premise. He sets up the character and the environment, with some background, in the opening, and then he really kicks things into gear with one eerie, tense scenario after another. While the final half is somewhat standard, Flanagan still remembers it’s important to make his audience wonder how something will happen in the outcome of the climax even when they have a good idea as to what could happen. He handles it all pretty well with a good amount of suspense and enough surprises to keep me engaged. I’m curious to see what he comes up with for his next film.

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