Whilst lacking in originality, Flannigan’s home invasion ‘Hush’ utilises strong performances and technical prowess to skilfully navigate the typical genre stumbling blocks.
As my opener suggests ‘Hush’ is a home invasion, and, as you would expect it revolves around a young woman, living alone, terrorised by a sadistic assailant. The ‘twist’ here is that the victim in this movie is a deaf-mute, and whilst her tormentor is a sick bastard, she’s had a lifetime of hardship and isolation to ensure she won’t go down without a fight…
Going beyond a gimmick, ‘Hush’ incorporates our protagonist’s disability into all manner of creative decisions which work well into the movie’s atmosphere and tension. In the opener we get a fully-fledged score which gradually diminishes to be replaced by a muted soundtrack, dull and disorientating sound effects. A spartan soundtrack which remains for the remainder of the films 82-minute runtime to great effect.
Given the above, the film also cannot rely on jump-scares, or at least the volume spike elements of them. In its place a clever use of shadows, and nerve-wracking silent stalk and slash elements replace the typical jolt style set pieces prolific within the sub-genre. That said, the film isn’t at all scary, and I think, aside from the terrifying prospect of the real-life implications of the concept, and of home invasion in general, ‘Hush’ is probably best described as a taut thriller.
Whilst Flannigan’s effort here hinges on these creative little flourishes, it relies heavily on strong performances, and again, from that angle, ‘Hush’ delivers. Kate Siegel (also starring in Flannigan’s earlier film ‘Occulus’, who incidentally co-wrote this movie) is typically fantastic in this film as the lead protagonist. Occupying the bulk of the screentime and having no dialogue to deliver, Siegel successfully conveys the victim’s sense of dread, fear and vulnerability though strong expression and the occasional creative use of an inner voice and other media such as writing of text message. This, in conjunction with the other technical choices in the sound design and dynamic cinematography help to ensure that once you’re drawn into the films scenario you remain locked-in.
Starring opposite Siegel is the antagonist known only as ‘The Man’ (John Gallagher Jr.). Whilst perhaps lacking in stature, his sadistic nature of taunting and toying with his victims sees him perhaps more conceivable as a psychopath than your typical machete wielding masked murderers. That said, it did take me a while to get into his character as he seemed to spend a lot of time doing not all that much, moving around the outside of the house struggling for entry; especially considering that he was armed to the hilt with antipersonnel weapons, crossbows and the ilk, there are some moments where I might have looked to question his credentials!
As a horror stalker he has his moments, for example taunting Maddie with the body of her dead friend and savagely attacking a neighbour standout amongst the best, and of course the end set pieces are definite highlights. That said, there are some other moments in the film where his judgement doesn’t seem to match the cold, calculated persona, with some questionable decisions and outright bumbling actions which do undermine the tension, if only slightly.
This leads me nicely onto my only real criticism for the film and that, for all the creativity in the films production, fantastic acting and overall solid presentation, ‘Hush’ is still very much typical home invasion movie, with all the cliché that go with it, for the good and the bad. This means that the film is pretty predicable in terms of its structure with a strong start, equally solid end, but with the middle sections feeling a little bit lacking. Beyond the films disability USP, it is incredibly linear, and I felt the film would have been almost perfect had there been some twists and turns in the story to replace those scenes were neither stalker nor victim are really doing anything of note to move the story along.
On the other hand this is most definitely 82 minutes of solid entertainment.
Overall, however, there’s no denying that ‘Hush’ is a solid film and probably one of the best home invasion movies out there. The genre itself is pretty restrictive by design and whilst ‘Hush’ doesn’t break this mould, it shows just how effectively the genre can work with meticulous attention to detail and talent both in-front and behind the camera. Flannigan has since gone onto produce hit series in ‘Haunting of Hill House’ and more recently ‘Midnight Mass’, both of which have been equally well received. It will be interesting to see if he will return to horror features with future projects.