Hush is a breath of fresh air for the home invasion thriller. It follows Maddie (Katie Siegel), a woman who lost her hearing and speech to meningitis when she was a teenager. She is an author and has recently moved to the country to try to get distanced from some of the things that made her life frustrating. She lives alone and relies on facetime and text messaging to communicate with her friends and family, including her neighbor who is trying to learn sign language to communicate properly with her. One night, however, a masked man (John Gallagher, Jr.) stalks her, and once he realizes she’s deaf, he decides to make her live through the worst night of her life before killing her. As for her, she must figure out how to make it out of the situation alive.
This film combines two of my biggest fears: the loss of senses and home invasion, so it was not hard for me to be creeped out. I actually did not know that the protagonist was deaf (which kind of makes me feel terrible about spoiling that particular aspect), so from the moment I realized it I began to get tense. Once the action starts to happen and we see how much at a disadvantage she is due to her condition. Director Mike Flanagan does a brilliant job of conveying how she experiences the world, which makes the audience’s experience more frustrating because we want her to win and it feels like a lost cause.
It also helps that Siegel’s performance is so brilliant. In her life her condition is not always much of a hindrance and her biggest concerns are finishing a book to make money and relationship problems. But once she is attacked, her initial portrayal of hopelessness is downright crushing. Even as the character’s resilience begins to show, she plays it with an air of defeat. She knows she’s very likely to die, but she will take the guy down with her if she must. I don’t know if she will be in my top 10 female lead performances by this time next year, but it’s still a great piece of work.
I also have to give props to Gallagher. In most other things that I’ve seen him in he gets to play the cute guy next door, but he sheds that image pretty well. He doesn’t actually get to do much other than stab and shoot people since there’s not much of a character there, but still, good job.
Another thing I loved is how it plays with the reliance on technology. Now a days when I’m watching an old film or a new one set in the not-too-distant past I can’t help but think “this could be prevented if they only had a cell phone.” Now here we have a character that perhaps owes a great deal of her independence to technology. So to see her be debilitated by the simple act of a switch flip is terrifying.
This brings me to my problems with the film. As great as Flanagan is at building up the atmosphere, after a while when she has been running around the house and the killer has been circling the outside of the house, it becomes tedious and I wished they’d just get it over with. The film is less than 90 minutes, but it still feels as if a little bit of fat could have been trimmed. The predictable addition of certain characters and some other clichéd tropes towards the end doesn’t help.
The other problems that I had, mainly the cinematography perhaps could not be helped due to budget issues and shooting conditions. But for the most part Hush is a great horror thriller perfect for a later summer/early fall evening.