by the Bubonic Illiterate
Mike Flanagan’s 2016 survival-slasher film Hush recycles a killer-at-the-door storyline by giving it an impairment. Though Hush is set against a backdrop of familiar circumstances—girl is home alone, home is a house in the woods, lunatic with unknown motive is trying to kill girl—the film’s heroine, Maddie, can’t be typecast as your typical horror lead. She’s an isolated novelist struggling to surpass her first novel, and, most refreshingly, her greatest non-clichéd quality is this: She can’t hear. And that unusual element is why and how Hush works so effectively at keeping tension taut nearly the entire film. Imagine being unable to gauge the noise you’re making when there’s a murderer on your tracks; unable to hear the patter of your feet—knowing very well that your assailant can—as you attempt to move astutely in and around your house. Hush uses deafness to turn a basic plotline into something more intimate; in lieu of suspense-building string-arrangements, moments of silence are used to depict Maddie’s reality as she struggles to stay alive.
The killer—armed with a crossbow, crowbar, and knife—is ruthless, and his slayings reflect it. As well, unlike slashers/archers in films like You’re Next, The Strangers, or Scream, the man after Maddie is indifferent to his anonymity and willingly reveals his face early into the film. The bulk of the film is a cat and mouse chase, both entertaining and unnerving. The final act, however, is particularly original: Maddie, bleeding out from a leg wound, confronts her writer brain to weigh various courses of action (endings) that she can take. Each scenario is visualized on screen, and all but one result in death. Depending on who you’re rooting for, the ending can be either satisfying or disappointing. Regardless, Hush is an original take on a well-worn genre trope and definitely not a film to keep quiet about.
Flanagan, Mike. Hush, Blumhouse Productions / Intrepid Pictures, 2016.