by Natalie Dest
With its leading slogan of “silence can be killer,” director of this heart-racing horror-thriller, Mike Flanagan, brings the act of silence to a new dimension.
“Hush” differs from the typical home-invasion thriller. However, this game of cat and mouse delivers a wide range of suspense, making its viewers wince and flinch. After its premiere at the South by Southwest (SXSW) Film Festival, this intense and breathless horror made its grand appearance on Netflix, gathering attention from avid binge-watchers.
Katie Siegal, who co-wrote the screenplay with Flanagan, stars as Maddie, the fiercely-independent heroine who has been deaf since she was a child. In hopes of seeking seclusion to finish the ending to her ‘in the works’ fiction novel, Maddie moves herself to a much rural area with minimal neighbors.
This isolation provides Maddie with the perfect environment to complete her work. However, it is a more than a perfect setup for the typical horror-cliche of a killer in a white mask to appear.
This roaming homicidal maniac is played by John Gallagher Jr., who is seen to cut off Maddie’s connections to the outside world. He continuously toys with her, physically and psychologically, as the film goes on, making it unsure of what his next move will be. In one Flanagan’s earlier scenes, this unnamed killer steals Maddie’s cell phone and texts pictures he has taken of her directly to the laptop she is using.
Gallagher’s character doesn’t count for Maddie’s willingness and attempts to fight back. “Hush” places a character with a handicap to be perceived as a disadvantage, serving as a tease for its potential viewers. But specifically in regards to this tense thriller, Maddie’s unexpected advantages are the keys to understanding this film.
As the masked murderer torments her inside and outside the house, the inner strength of our rooting hero is put to the ultimate test. The consistent back and forth between hero and villain is initially gripping, as the advantage shifts continuously from one scene to the next. However, this fight for domination eventually turns into the standard killer’s territory.
It’s not shocking that most of the action unfolds through a limited script of dialogue, other than a brief voice-over of Siegel speaking as Maddie’s conscience. With this lack of verbal communication, Flanagan uses this as an opportunity to use sound in different creative ways. He excluded audio completely to put viewers into the heroine’s shoes, and deliver a surprise jolt when necessary. It’s often a horror cliche to include bursts of loud noise and are rarely seen to be used effectively. But, are purposefully planted within this film and used for the right reasons.
All in all, the scenario of “Hush” is centered around a person who can’t hear, forced to fight off someone who not only is at an advantage, but also has weapons at their reach. The absolute worst nightmare to say the least. Through the unexpected brutal violence, this rated “R” horror embodies the essence of the words “suspense” and “thriller.”