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Hush is a perfect example of a talented filmmaker taking a very familiar story and using it in a clever and fresh manner. Maddie (Kate Siegel, who also co-wrote) is an author who moves into a remote house in the woods to write and live a more secluded life away from the city and her ex-boyfriend. Maddie also lost her hearing and speech when she was thirteen to a severe case of meningitis. One night, as Maddie tries to work on her next book, a deranged crossbow-wielding individual (John Gallagher, Jr.) lays siege to her home, cutting off her communications and power with the intent of her not living out the night. Now Maddie, alone and trapped inside her own home, must defend herself against a foe she can’t hear coming.
Directed and co-written by Mike Flanagan (Absentia, Oculus), this flick gives new life to the scenario of a sole individual trapped by some evil force or persons in a secluded house. By giving it’s heroine/intended victim a disability that puts her at a disadvantage, it ups the ante in the suspense and intensity department. It also gives our Maddie the resourcefulness of a woman who has had to make do without the benefit of hearing and speech for over half of her life. And that’s what really made this thriller click, was Maddie’s ingenuity in outwitting and communicating with her attacker and her tenacious will to survive and fight back. The film also gives Maddie’s inner monologue a voice, her own, as we hear her thoughts as she’s trying to outthink the unnamed invader and even moments where she plays her own inner monologue in person, as she tries to convince herself not to give up. It’s very clever and really works so well under Mike Flanagan’s skilled direction. It also worked that her mysterious attacker is unmasked quite early and we get someone who is not only a psychopath but is quite full of personality himself. It makes him so much more than a cliché masked bad guy that he is basically just a person, though a decidedly demented and sick one. We never get an explanation for his attack, though there are clues that this is not his first rodeo. On a more basic level there is some surprisingly brutal violence and some intense action and nail-biting suspense to go along with two opposing characters with surprising depth for what could have been a routine thriller in lesser hands. Routine it is far from, as Flanagan and leading lady/co-writer Kate Siegel deliver this oft-told tale with a freshness, cleverness and tension that make this such an enjoyably nail-biting thrill ride.
While there are brief appearances from supporting players Samantha Sloyan and Michael Trucco as neighbors, Sarah and John, it is a two person play and we get really strong work from both actors. Co-scribe Kate Siegel is really good as Maddie and makes her extremely likable without saying a word. She wonderfully conveys the woman’s personality with her facial expressions, phrasing in sign language and her reactions when spending time with her neighbor Sarah. She endears to you quickly. Once she comes under siege, we get a strong-willed and very clever woman who, despite her handicap, stays one step ahead of the vicious man outside her door. As that man, 10 Cloverfield Lane’s John Gallagher, Jr. plays his stalker with a surprisingly offbeat and almost down-to-earth personality. He is a killer, no doubt, as he brutally murders anyone who gets in his way and has a not too pleasant fate in-store for his quarry…a quarry he enjoys toying with. He is, however, never over-the-top or theatrical, as many stories feel their villains need to be. The script and Gallagher, make him more than just a simple, deranged monster, he is a very human one. There is a person under the killer’s mask, though certainly a twisted and cruel one. Avoiding a cliché film fiend portrayal makes him scarier, as you literally feel like you could pass him on the street and not notice him…or even work with him and never know he’s homicidal. Great cast to compliment the clever script.
This was one top-notch thriller. It was intense, smart, suspenseful and had some brutal moments that really caught one off-guard. It had a solid leading lady who conveyed a lot of personality and resourcefulness, despite her handicaps and used the resourcefulness born of those handicaps to battle her opponent. We got a villain who was surprisingly human, which made him all the more frightening as he could be anyone you meet and not some generic, hulking, over-the-top madman that exists only in a movie. It was a delightfully gripping game of cat and mouse with a clever script by star Siegal and director Mike Flanagan, who also skillfully and inventively presents a fresh slant on a familiar story. Highly recommended! Almost certainly will be on my list for best horror flicks of the year!
Rated 3 and 1/2 (out of 4) crossbow bolts.