Hush (2016) Review
In the land of horror films, the same ideas tend to get recycled over and over again. It’s refreshing when there’s a plot with a new idea, and Hush reveals one of those new ideas as our protagonist, Maddie (Katie Siegel), is a deaf mute.
Maddie is a writer who lives alone in a wooded area. (We never quite understand why this is, because it seems pretty dangerous, regardless if she’s reclusive…and later, we find that this fear is justified.) In the opening scene, her neighbor Sarah (Samanth Sloyan), who seems to be an important person in Maddie’s life, comes by to hang out.
I figured that Sarah would come into play later when Maddie needs her help, but they turned the tables on us as Sarah is brutally stabbed to death by a masked man as she screams and begs for Maddie’s help.
The murderer notices that Maddie doesn’t react to Sarah’s cries, and knocks on the door to see if she responds. He quickly learns that Maddie is deaf and decides to use it to his advantage, making Maddie his next target. When she leaves the room, he grabs her cell phone, then cuts the electricity so she can’t use her laptop to call for help.
As Maddie begins to get harassed by the killer, she uses her lipstick to write on the glass door: “Won’t tell, didn’t see face, boyfriend coming home.” She shines a flashlight on to it to be sure he sees it. Unfortunately, not only did the killer hear her earlier facetiming with her sister saying that she lives alone, we also learn that the guy is a complete lunatic. This obviously wasn’t a killer with a grudge against Sarah. He doesn’t want to leave Maddie alone. He takes his mask off and icily says “You’ve seen it now,” making it clear that his intentions are to kill her.
Hush then gives us a new kind of heroine…not just a deaf mute, as that actually has a lot less to do with the story than I thought it would, but also a woman who uses her brain. This isn’t a chick who’s going to run up the stairs while the guy chases after her. We see her remember that Sarah’s cell phone was in her back pocket as she attempts to get the phone off of her dead body. As Sarah’s boyfriend John (Michael Trucco) comes up to Maddie’s house to look for her, the killer acts like a police officer responding to a call. Though John is very suspicious and gathers that this guy isn’t who he says he is, he never gets to attack him. Maddie sees him and bangs on her door for help, but unfortunately it’s John’s undoing, as the moment he takes his eye off of the killer, the killer gets him in the jugular with a knife. John does the best he can to keep the killer at bay as he bleeds out, and he mouths to Maddie to run, but Maddie’s intellectual side comes into play. She doesn’t just blindly run because someone told her to. She takes a moment to think about her options. She realizes she can’t run- she’s been shot in the leg with an arrow and she won’t be fast enough to outrun him, and it will mean certain death. Can’t hide under the deck- he’ll eventually find her. Can’t wait til morning- she’ll bleed out. She realizes she has to fight. Leaving a description of the man on her laptop for her family to find later, she grabs a knife and anticipates dying fighting him off. It is ultimately her other heightened senses that save her.
Siegel, who co-wrote the film with director Mike Flanagan, is great in her role; if they had the wrong actress in that part, the movie would have been a complete disaster. Another interesting aspect of the film is that we see the killer more than I’ve probably ever seen in any horror film. He talks a lot (especially for a film with so little dialogue), we see his face a lot, and it doesn’t take away from the scare factor. Why? Because it’s a real threat that any of us could be faced with at any time. If someone really wanted to make us their target, they could make it so our phone and electricity were unusable, and they could get in our house if they wanted to. When Maddie is moving from room to room keeping her eye on the killer, it’s as if we are in the room as well, watching out for the guy who could at any time decide that now is the time he’s going to take your life away. The atmosphere is dark- almost a little too dark. It was hard to see some parts, but it did make it feel more like you were actually in a dark house at night.
My biggest qualm with the film is we get no indication of who this guy is or why he gets a kick out of torturing and killing women. How did he decide on Sarah, who lives in a remote area? Why does the attack seem so personal as he stabs her over and over? Why is this guy’s weapon of choice a crossbow? The man, played by John Gallagher Jr., is not very intimidating looking; he just looks like a normal guy. But maybe that’s the point.
Though the plot had the new idea of a deaf mute being the heroine, I don’t agree with many critics, who say that this movie gave a brand new twist to the home invasion sub-genre…but I will say that it was one of few horror films that made me think, “yeah, that could happen.”
Jessica's Final Review
Hush has been causing a stir since it's become available on Netflix, but is it really deserved? Probably not. The premise is somewhat unique, but the ending is very predictable and disappointing. I wish they would have given us some sort of back story about who the murderer was and why he was so hell bent on torturing women. When it comes down to it, it's basically a slasher movie without a lot of slashing. It kept me interested, but it could have been better and had some fresher ideas. Though our heroine is smart, there's not a whole lot of intellectually stimulating material here.