A deaf writer is tormented at her rural home by a psychopathic murderer.
Directed by Mike Flanagan
Starring Kate Siegel and John Gallagher Jr
Initial Review by Bobby Schmidt
Now, the lack of any audio in Maddie's life is what really sets Hush to be different from a standard home invasion hack and slash movie. We're given a nice set up to Maddie, with adequate information from what we're shown to get to know her. She's intelligent, humble, friendly, deaf... and isolated. We know she's far away from her family and her closest neighbor is a little hike through the woods. I'm a big fan of how persistent and strong willed Maddie is. She's quick to try different things (including some not so good choices), but her fight or flight is well displayed. And of course, she's a writer who struggles with endings, always having too many in her mind without being to choose the right one. Which leads to another well done aspect of Hush....
Foreshadowing is a staple of nearly every quality story, and Hush is not lacking at all in this department. One of the first visuals we get is Maddie opening a bottle of Pinot... corkscrew shot number 1. Soon after we get a clear look at the corkscrew on the stand. At first, it's fair to think this may be too blatant, but I think the audience is distracted enough (as is Maddie) with her cooking, the cat, the texting, etc... not to really focus on the corkscrew, as it readily slipped to the back of my mind until it was ready to slip into the intruders neck. The fire alarm is one of my favorite parts of the film. When it first goes of, Christina and I both said something about it... along the lines of "wtf, that's an incredible alarm!" Of course, it's absolutely practical for Maddie and ends up being vital to her survival in the end. Things like the shot of Sarah putting her phone in her back pocket and Maddie recalling it, or short term cuts like the insect spray. I always enjoy hints, be them subtle or slightly in your face, that are called back well as the story goes on.
With that, it's sort of in the foreshadow/setup vein that the movie has a couple issues, as well. Was anybody else waiting for Craig to show up, or at least be relevant at some point? We get multiple missed Facetime calls from Craig, which clearly rattle Maddie, as well as a quick call and hang up in the other direction from her. He's then mentioned in her conversations. It really felt like we were being set up for something to happen there... and it went nowhere at all. Hell, give me quick scene of Craig calling when the intruder has the phone and make something interesting happen there... or after Maddie settles down and sits on the porch waiting for the police, have her call Craig to show us how she was affected by what just happened and how it makes her isolation and distance look a little different.
The other major issue I had, was the voice in her head. Not so much that she had one, that's fine and set up well. She explains to Sarah that she could hear until she was a teenager, so the constant voice in her head sounds like her mother. That, with the knowledge that she overthinks and creates too many endings and scenarios in her head could have made her montage of bad endings work really well. Instead, we're giving an odd visual of her talking to herself, hearing her own voice point out all the wrong ways to go. I think if we hear her mother's voice (which we could have set up with an early phone call, or even a home video showing us her mom if they wanted the same type of visual) going through the scenarios with her, it would have made more sense with what we already knew about how things work in her mind, especially the supposedly constant voice. Things were set up well with Craig and the voice in her head, but the callbacks lacked and the execution of some scenes failed because of it.
Now, without Craig and Maddie's mom, we only have a total of five characters in the entire movie. Max (Maddie's sister) is only on a Facetime Call, Sarah gets one scene with Maddie and another short one as she's killed, and John is the biggest idiot of all time. I think all three parts are given enough screen time and are acted adequately enough... nothing special, nothing horrible. The major roles of Maddie and the intruder, however, were really well done, I thought. Kate Siegel gives us a great lead (Mediocrity nomination forthcoming!). I'm a really big fan of her tone and expressions throughout the film. Her casual conversations with Sarah and Max are really well played, and her emotions, especially the fear, with the invasion are spot on for me. Each of her confrontations with the intruder work come across strong. The intruder, Jon Gallagher Jr., is interesting. As he's pulling his mask off, I expected some hideous face, or somebody far more menacing... but what we're given is a pretty ordinary looking man. Instead of being disappointed, however, it made things all the more creepy. It's not a monster at the door, it's a regular average looking human being who is capable of this, and that just adds to the fear factor. I think Gallagher does a really good job with the character. He doesn't need much range here, but his demeanor and delivery is solid and plays up the regular guy being scary. Solid casting, acting, and directing all around.
With the big things out of the way, I think... some quick thoughts I jotted down throughout.
I liked the realistic conversations with Max and Sarah. They seemed comfortable with relatable language and expressions.
Should we all start getting to know our neighbors' WiFi passwords?
Locking the doors on him, hands in the window, hammer to the forearm, kicking him off the roof... I like the little wins, that gave us a little hope, but still kept things in perspective.
Her hand getting smashed was a great shot, cringe worthy... but wasn't done in an over the top fashion that could have easily been too much or distracting.
I really liked her writing that note to her parents. It doesn't seem like something you see in most horror movies... but the realistic nature of her thoughts going to her parents, still being quick enough to remember to include a description, and using what is essentially her full acceptance of what's likely to happen to make her last stand is a great little touch.
I thought from the first time we saw her, that the cat was going to die. I liked how they used that as a moment of distraction for the intruder, and the audience, to give Maddie a shot at him.
I think the build up and back and forth was well done. The movie wasn't too long, which is important because I think dragging things out any longer could have really hurt it. In the end, I think we're given a really good final stand off sequence with a satisfying finish.
So yeah, overall, I really enjoyed Hush. For me it had all the makings of an A range horror movie, especially with a mere $70,000 budget. I really wanted to love it, but the missteps with Craig and Maddie's voice in her head are big enough for a drop to the next tier. This was my first Michael Flanagan movie, since a previous pick of mine, Occulus, was vetoed. After Hush, I'll definitely put that one back in my queue and finally watch it, along with his other work if it's readily available. Held up by a quality premise, solid acting, and great fear inducing elements, especially the audio, Hush gets a well deserved B+