Last month, I was lucky enough to stumble across a couple of movies that have not been released in cinemas and have instead gone straight to streaming platforms. This used to be a sign of a forgettable movie; “straight to DVD” being in effect a three word review that said all you needed it to say. But, as viewing patterns and technology evolve, we can’t always rely on this any longer. And, if we do, we run the risk of missing some real gems, such as the movie I’ve reviewed here.
Hush was released this year by Netflix and is directed by Mike Flanagan who was also the director behind Oculus. I wasn’t a huge fan of Oculus, but there were enough interesting elements in it to make me give this one a shot. Flanagan also co-wrote the script with the lead actor Kate Siegel, so in every way this is a small scale production.
Kate Siegel plays Maddie, a deaf author who lives by herself out in the forest. One night, a psychotic serial killer comes to her house intent on adding her to his list of victims, but not before he has played a very twisted cat and mouse game with her.
It’s a very simple premise, but it is one that works. There are two main reasons for why this is a standout horror movie that I hope more people seek out.
Firstly, the premise of having a deaf/mute girl as the main character brings some really interesting elements to the horror genre. While watching the movie, you realise how dependent you as the viewer and the characters within horror movies are on sound to alert you to danger lurking around the corner/in the next shot. Reducing the film’s reliance on creaky floorboards, shaking doorknobs etc. means that tension levels automatically shoot sky high.
You just have to watch the trailer above to get a sense of how the film uses the lead character’s hearing impediment, as well as our modern technology in the form of cell phones and instant messaging, to really good, creepy effect. This part of the film also bears strong resemblance to the opening scene of Scream, in the best possible way.
Surprisingly, I found the fact that Maddie doesn’t speak to be an oddly empowering aspect of her character, making her stand out from the endless female targets in horror movies. It took a while for me to realise that I was watching a horror movie that had almost no screaming in it. It’s very refreshing and sets film apart from more torture-porn-like films. In a way, Maddie’s silence is her strength. In a situation where the odds might seem stacked against her, by refusing her stalker the – for him – gratifying sound of her despair and fear, she is helping to rig the whole game just slightly more in her favour.
Secondly, the film’s small budget has been used to the absolute best effect and it translates to a focused, taught story. We never leave Maddie’s house and its immediate surroundings and this gives a sense of claustrophobic tension. The small budget and small, but solid cast, is what helps it feel like a well executed horror movie unlike so many baggy, unfocused horrors we are subjected to.
The running time is kept short at 1 hours 20 minutes so we don’t waste a lot of time on back story and character motivations. Nothing impresses me more these days than when a director has the good sense to allow his/her movie to hold something back, to not tell us everything, and to let its audience free of its grip before they start looking at their watches and shifting in their seats.
Hush is the kind of horror movie I wish received more attention, so that studios took more notice. Not so that they could swoop in and plan Hush 2, 3 and 4 but rather so horror movies that have great stories and believable characters were given the time of day more often. At a time where cookie cutter horror movies are being churned out, Hush is – excuse the pun – a quiet little film that packs a punch.