As with any genre, there exists many sub-genres within horror. Hush is an entry in the ‘house invasion’ sub-genre, making its presence proudly known alongside other notable ‘house invasion’ films like The Strangers and You’re Next. Co-writer Kate Siegel takes the mantle as a scream queen without a voice as Maddie – a writer who lives in the the woods, trying to crack her second novel. One fateful night, a man (John Gallagher Jr.) appears to make Maddie’s life hell.
As with other house invasion films, the set up for Hush is quite simple – a person is in a house, somebody wants to get in to do bad things of them, then bad things occur. As anybody familiar with horror films will know, most of the time the setup and outcome of the story is the same, it’s the way that story is told that matters. And boy, does Hush tell a great little story. What makes Hush unique compared to say, The Strangers or You’re Next, is the fact that Maddie is deaf and cannot speak, adding an extra level of tension to the proceedings as she’s audibly unaware of her attackers position.
Director Mike Flanagan handles tension perfectly as the stakes are always realistic and believable. Maddie’s friend Sarah (Samantha Sloyan) lives within walking distance, adding context to why a deaf-mute person would live by herself in the woods – this is not an isolated cabin with no one around for miles, this is a well inhabited area. The use of technology helps build Maddie as a compelling character as well, with her reliance on messaging systems to communicate. Sure, her ‘writer trying to crack the next novel’ base is a familiar trope within cinema as a whole, but it’s just another element that exists to help create an oddly relatable tone for the film.
In its short eighty minute run time, Hush manages to quickly set up a series of ‘Chekov’s gun’s’ that play off wonderfully as the film progresses. The camera pauses on a bottle opener for a moment, hinting that of course, that opener will be used later on to devastating effect. One could be frustrated by the obvious signalling of what’s to come, but that’s part of the joy of jumping on the ride that is Hush. This is a film that’s not trying to reinvent the horror genre, it’s simply aiming to tell a tense little story effectively.
All of this would be useless if the two main characters weren’t well performed. Kate Siegel manages to do so much with so little as Maddie. Siegel is helped by John Gallagher Jr. as the attacker – a man who first of all arrives with a truly frightening mask on, yet, when his mask is removed, he mains just as terrifying. Too often when the mask is removed from a villain, they lose most of their ability to scare as the human face often doesn’t manage to equal the frightening blank-ness of the mask they wore. However, John Gallagher Jr. manages to equal the frightening nature of his mask, creating an unsettling attacker without an agenda.
Oddly, when comparing John Gallagher Jr.’s other 2016 film (10 Cloverfield Lane) to this, you’re presented with an oddly similar story. Here, Siegel’s Maddie is as intuitive and resourceful as Mary Elizabeth Winstead’s Michelle, yet, given the situation that Maddie finds herself in, it’s more believable that she would retaliate the way she does.
Hush is well worth watching if you’re a fan of horror films as it manages to excel at the genre without ever trying to reinvent it. There’s nothing wrong with breaking out of tradition, but there’s something honourable about taking the core elements of a genre and making an exciting, interesting film out of it. There is some truly great gore within the moments of tension that makes for an enjoyable entry into the horror film genre.
Director: Mike Flanagan
Cast: Kate Siegel, John Gallagher Jr., Michael Trucco
Writers: Mike Flanagn, Kate Siegel