Hush (2016) review

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A thrilling breath of fresh air, suspense-horror Hush­—premiering at South by Southwest and released for streaming on Netflix shortly after—puts a twist on the home-invasion slasher niche. Sensational pacing, memorable performances, and top-notch production highlight this indie sleeper hit that’s charged with exciting action and daunting suspense. Metered tempo thrusts viewers through a pulsing fit of an anxiety-inducing story of vulnerability, self-resourcefulness, and adversity.

Young deaf author Maddie (Kate Siegel) lives an isolated life in a rural country cottage in the woods. Friendly neighbor Sarah (Samantha Sloyan) stops by to chat, and not long after returning home is chased back to Maddie’s cottage by a masked bloodthirsty killer. The masked attacker (John Gallagher Jr.) catches up with Sarah as she pounds on the oblivious Maddie’s door, stabbing her to death as she pleads for saving to deaf ears. Still wiping his blade clean of Sarah’s blood, the man realizes Maddie cannot hear and cooks up a diabolical plan to break her psyche as he disables her limited contacts to the outside world and takes his time playing with his seemingly easy prey. The man reveals himself, and his face, to Maddie, and she attempts to devise a plan to protect herself, cycling through the bleak range of endings to her story with the crossbow- and buck knife-wielding psychopath. One way or another, the man is getting inside, and only one ending will end up written in stone.

Director Mike Flanagan (Oculus) and co-writer/lead actress Kate Siegel produced an entertaining darling of a thriller with high-stakes action and remarkable pacing, relying on activity rather than dialogue to hold the attention of audiences for the 81-minute runtime. Polished sound design and mixing cleverly emphasize the contrast of the hearing and deaf worlds, underlining the pros and cons of an unsuspecting victim with such a disability. The inability to hear grants an edge to the heroine in at least one instance, but remains a fantastic source of conveying her increased vulnerability. Also adding to the sense of vulnerability, and bringing the film’s intensity to another level, is the superb acting by John Gallagher Jr. (10 Cloverfield Lane) as he skillfully expresses the subdued mania of the attacker. A few clichés rear their heads, but none that should be considered more than insignificant flaws. Solid cinematography and camerawork accentuate the feeling of being trapped with nowhere to run and nowhere to hide, and the setting works perfectly for the story at hand.

More than one of Maddie’s decisions are sure to frustrate a fair share of viewers, and Flanagan does end up playing into some lackluster foreshadowing, but, nevertheless, much fun is had as the two main characters take their time before their inevitable skirmish. This isn’t necessarily a bloodbath, but the film offers a healthy dose of gore throughout the story.