2016, R, 82 min. Directed by Mike Flanagan. Starring Kate Siegel, John Gallagher Jr., Michael Trucco, Samantha Sloyan, Emma Graves.
REVIEWED By Marjorie Baumgarten, Fri., March 25, 2016
In between its world premiere at SXSW 2016 and its debut on Netflix in early April, the canny home-invasion thriller Hush is receiving a modest theatrical rollout. That’s no doubt a testament to the effectiveness of this latest release from the horror purveyors at Blumhouse Productions and Intrepid Pictures.
With concise direction from Mike Flanagan, Hush is a one-location terror rampage. Flanagan (who also directed Oculus a few years ago) wrote the film with its star victim Kate Siegel, to whom he is also married. Siegel plays Maddie Young, a deaf writer who lives alone in an isolated cabin (classic catnip for evildoers). Yet, even though Maddie is horrifically terrorized, her character is not a passive victim. Maddie fights back, often ingeniously, against the unnamed, white-masked maniac with a crossbow (John Gallagher Jr., straying far afield from his supernice-guy role on The Newsroom). Like many a homicidal maniac in horror movies, this guy is a sadist who seems to prefer toying with his targets more than the actual kill; he’d prefer to pluck the wings off insects, one by one, instead of squashing them outright.
Hush makes clever use of Maddie’s deafness as part of the plot development, although comparisons with the classic sensory-impairment thriller Wait Until Dark end there. Our modern electronic devices – from smartphones to smoke detectors – are intelligently incorporated into the story. Siegel’s strong screen presence, despite the absence of auditory dialogue, also helps carry the movie. You can almost see the wheels turning inside Maddie’s brain as she tries time after time to outwit her tormentor. Hush has a solid first half before the cat-and-mouse shenanigans begin to seem repetitive and prolonged. Still, at 82 minutes Hush is a concise and well-executed horror nightmare.