Hush (2016) Movie Reviews

Monday, June 20, 2016

Hush (2016) Movie Reviews

Hush (2016) Movie Reviews

Mike Flanagan is one for two in my books. His first big film was Absentia, which was a slow boring mess of a film. Interesting ideas, but nothing much else was going on in the film. His second output was a vast improvement, Oculus. Flanagan showed promise and improvement, which made me interested in seeing what else he had for future projects. Well, he has two films coming out in 2016 and I want to talk about Hush, his take on the home invasion sub-genre. 

Home invasion films have been done to death. Some are great (You're Next), some are tolerable (The Strangers) and some are downright terrible (When A Stranger Calls, 2006). So how does one make their home invasion film stand out from the rest? There has to be some twist on the story to make it memorable. You're Next was a great deconstruction of the genre itself and had the heroine be a survival specialist. The twist Hush brings us lies in the fact that our protagonist if completely deaf. 

The key element that makes or breaks this film is the sound design. I felt like the crew pulled it off and we have a solid thriller on our hands here. Maddie is a deaf author and she has secluded herself in a house in the woods to write her next book. Problems arise when someone outside her house decides to play a deadly game with Maddie and know she has to keep him out and escape alive. Again, this is a simple premise that is only made interesting by the fact that she is deaf and how the filmmakers decide to handle that aspect of the story. 

While the film does inevitably go down routine routes with the story, Flanagan does so with skill and finesse. Multiple times throughout the film we are in Maddie's shoes as Flanagan completely mutes the audio. We see the terror happening behind her, but we cannot hear it. He can be entering the house at any point and we will not know. Flanagan manages to seep the viewer in suspense throughout the whole film and while there are some gory and squeamish scenes, he doesn't rely on them. They feel real and earned. Looking back at the film there are multiple sequences where I was taken back or had a huge grin on my face with the ingenuity of it all. 

People will ultimately try to find inconsistencies with how the film handles the deaf aspect. I had maybe one issue myself, but can look past it for the benefit of the enjoyment I ultimately had because of the film. With a small cast of only four people and hardly any dialogue (maybe 15 minutes total?) Hush is a well crafted film that earns a viewing from anyone who likes this genre.

Home invasion horror movies aren't even worth making anymore unless there's going to be a gimmick that sets them apart. In "Hush," the gimmick is the deafness of the protagonist, a young woman who lost her hearing to meningitis as a teenager and now lives in a secluded cabin in the woods (of course). The man who wants to kill her wants to kill her just because, and he enjoys terrorizing her first. Her deafness is portrayed as both a hindrance and an advantage. On the one hand, she can't hear her stalker but he can hear her; on the other hand, she's forced to think creatively and act in ways that her attacker isn't necessarily expecting.

The film's set up is handled well. In an opening scene, we're almost overwhelmed by the snap, crackle, and pop of the heroine making dinner, sounds we would normally take for granted thundering at us over the soundtrack. This primes us to pay attention to aural cues throughout the rest of the movie, and indeed one finds himself cringing at each little squeak and rustle the protagonist makes as she runs and hides from place to place. At one point, she realizes the only way to beat this dude is to do the one thing he won't expect, and that's to fight back and kill him. And while I agreed wholeheartedly with this sentiment, I also found that the air goes out of the film a bit from that point forward. The filmmakers make such a point of establishing her deafness early on that I wish that condition had played more of a role in her actually triumphing over her attacker. But in the end, her deafness becomes beside the point and she deals with him much the same way as anyone would. It's refreshing to find a heroine in a horror film who doesn't act as a ninny, but by the end, gimmick aside, there wasn't much to distinguish "Hush" from any number of similar films. The film it most reminded me of in recent memory is "You're Next," which wasn't a great film either but did a better job of sustaining its gimmick premise all the way through the film.

Hush is the story of a deaf woman who lives in a remote house in the woods who one night is suddenly confronted by a masked murderer with a crossbow. And that's it. There is no explanation as to who this guy is and why he want's her dead but you just know he does and you have to roll with it. Of coarse he has to wear the obligatory silly mask and despite killing others with no thought , he wants to play a game with this woman instead of just bumping her off. It's your typical Friday the 13th type psycho Slasher and nothing more. It's not terrible but it's not a film that will stay with you for too long either. Thankfully it's just 82 minutes long.

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