Director Mike Flanagan — best known for his 2013 supernatural horror Oculus — teams with real-life partner again Kate Siegel in the writing department, whilst Siegel herself steps before the camera in what is unarguably her career-defining role.
Hush, not to be confused with 2008’s “horror on the motorway” of the same name, follows writer Maddie. Secluded in a house on stilts in the middle of the woods with nobody nearby other than a friendly neighbour, she’s alone, and more frightening, she’s deaf. As a masked figure emerges from the dark and begins tormenting her, his game of cat and mouse becomes a reality when his promise that he’ll make her wish she was dead becomes painfully true.
Maddie is alone; cooking for one, Skyping her friends to adhere to her disability, going through a seemingly recent break-up. Instantly, Maddie is likeable. She’s incredibly vulnerable and innocent, and all she wants to do is find an ending to her book. Siegel’s turn as deaf and mute is convincing to the point where you’ll find yourselves googling the truth. Instead she merely powers through a short film using body language and sheer vigour as the terror begins to rapidly unfold.
Flanagan and Sigel’s undoubtedly simple script adheres to more than a few usual horror tropes, and whilst the disability factor creates an unusually refreshing spin on the fact that our heroine can’t hear a god-damn thing — where this masked psychopath is, using vibrations on floorboards and using sight, though impaired in the dark, to meticulously calculate the whereabouts and any window of opportunity to run — it’s the script that proves most surprising. Maddie, though disable, is actually incredibly smart. Easily, audiences are going to relate to this character, and easily will you find yourself yelling at the television the smartest things to attempt, and most surprising is that Flanagan and Siegel have already thought of these.
John Gallagher, Jr’s villainous turn as the assailant with no quarrels with Maddie, just a sheer delight for tormenting and viciously scaring the shit out of her, is decently rendered, though could have made his efforts a little more ominous if keeping the mask on for a little longer. Though, staring evil truly in the face has its moments.
Maddie’s attempts at survival are astoundingly intense. Flanagan’s ability to wire a scene so tight and taut that it becomes paralysing, gradually forming a base character that initially appears ridiculously vulnerable to a smart and empowered fighting machine.
This is a viciously entertaining cat and mouse thriller; one of the best of recent memory in fact. The home invasion factor has grown as tiresome as found footage, but Hush defies all expectations. With Flanagan’s eye and Siegel’s aid in either the writing or acting department, this is a winning suit.
(A very high 4, though)
Dir: Mike Flanagan
Scr: Mike Flanagan, Kate Siegel
Cast: Kate Siegel, John Gallagher Jr, Michael Trucco, Samantha Sloyan
Prd: Jason Blum, Trevor Macy
Music: The Newton Brothers
Runtime: 87 minutes
Hush is now available to stream on Netflix.