Starring: Kate Siegel, John Gallagher, Jr.
Directed by: Mike Flanagan (Oculus)
Synopsis: Deaf and mute novelist working on her new book in her woodland cabin is stalked and terrorized by a killer.
The Reel Quick review: See it! (it’s streaming now on Netflix)
- The concept. What makes a decent horror movie (especially a slasher) stand out is applying a decent new concept or twist to the genre. Having a victim be a deaf-mute definitely adds to the terror and puts her at a complete disadvantage. While this kind of handicapped disadvantage in a horror movie isn’t that new—see Audrey Hepburn’s Wait Until Dark where she plays a blind victim to her stalkers—but it’s very much welcomed in this day and age.
- The cast. I really would’ve assumed that Kate Siegel, who plays the deaf-mute Maddie, would actually be a deaf actress because she played the role very well. Kinda how like how in the past, whenever a role needed a deaf or sign language speaking actress, Marlee Matlin was automatically chosen. But Siegel, who is also the director’s wife, is very decent as the victimized woman. John Gallagher, Jr. also played the psychopathic killer very well with a nuance not seen in a stalker/slasher in a while. Especially coming from mostly dramatic/love lorn roles like Jim Harper on The Newsroom. I wouldn’t expect him to perform creepy as well as he did but I have my eye on him now, especially after seeing him in 10 Cloverfield Lane with another decent performance. (Side Note: GO SEE 10 Cloverfield Lane ASAP!—you’ll thank me later)
- There was one really neat and original idea implanted in this fine little horror movie and that was using the inner-voice of the heroine. Let me try to explain. Earlier in the film when Maddie was “chatting” with a neighbor friend she explained that despite contracting bacterial meningitis at age 13, she can still hear voices in her head when she’s thinking. Something we take for granted when we think. It’s an excellent premise—what kind of voice do you hear in your thinking head? On top of this, we also learn that she’s stumped on what ending she should choose for her book of a possible 7 and it’s bothering her to the point of scraping the book entirely. When it’s time at the finale of the movie, Maddie “thinks outloud” for the first and only time all the possible scenarios and outcomes that she can choose to live; ways to escape, hide or get help and all these scenarios are acted out on screen for us to see and they all don’t end well for her at all. So she’s now using her “voice” to assist her in her predicament of too many possible (bad) endings and this added a really nice novel idea to the horror genre of the victim really delving deep to figuring out what to do. It made for a really nice scene and I’m giving the film a higher grade for that and the concept of the film.
What doesn’t work:
- The direction. I’m sorry but I just don’t find Mike Flanagan’s directing all that good. After my scathing review of Oculus I’m still shocked I gave Hush a go but the concept was above and beyond more enticing than “evil mirror.” But I was also lured by some reviews I read that stated that this was a slow-burn and “quiet” horror flick, in other words, no thumping or distracting sound effects or lame jump-scare musical cues that are all over recent horror movies. While it was “quieter” than most it still wasn’t the chiller I was hoping for.
- The Story. Or lack thereof. While the concept is great and somewhat original the story and plot are the polar opposite. Not to compare too much to Wait Until Dark but the stalkers in the 1967 thriller had a plot and story to give the criminals motivation which was a stash of heroin that accidentally ended up in Hepburn’s apartment. In Hush, the killer just shows up and plays a game of cat-and-mouse with Maddie for no rhyme or reason whatsoever. I understand that psycho killers are psycho killers and sometimes they have no M.O. but to kill but in a movie that’s aiming to entertain I need a little more. The killer didn’t know her or did he want anything. Just shows up with a knife and crossbow and torments her once he finds out that she’s a deaf-mute. And to further my point of the lackluster storyline, the way she triumphs over him (SPOILER sorry!!) is in no way really related to her ailment. At one point her incredibly loud smoke alarm kinda startles him for a few seconds so she can maneuver away from him but that’s about it. Not to go into spoiler territory but there’s another scene where he’s behind her unbeknownst to her and she figures out he’s behind her in a way that anyone, not just handicapped people, can figure out. I was really hoping for a great twist for a victim of her type of handicap to defeat a foe but it never really happened. I mean she doesn’t even set any traps or outsmart him in any way just kinda hides in the house. Such a shame.
- Adding to the lame villain concept, it’s also worth pointing out that his reveal is done so poorly it bothered me greatly. Once he learns that she’s deaf, he starts to toy with her—he slowly enters her house, steals her iPhone and takes photos of her while she’s on her iPad. (now that I mention it, Oculus had a large amount of Apple products too…hmmmm) He then sends her those pics to scare and terrorize her that someone is watching her and very very closely. Which is great for a slow burn thriller but he reveals himself just a few moments later! What the hell! They could’ve continued scaring the crap out of her at her most disadvantaged state of not knowing anything for most of the flick and it would’ve been the best horror film in decades. But NOOoooOOOOOoooo. And to add to the misfire, he removes his creepy mask just a few scenes later and never puts it back on. Look, Flanagan, you have a great concept with an even creepier premise with the being stalked while deaf angle and you take that mostly away within minutes of introducing it. For the rest of the film he stays outside running from one door or window to another trying to get in when he could just break the glass! But for some odd and lame reason he wants to terrorize her—for why, it’s never explained nor does it add to the concept so it makes for a rather weak plot. If he made the stalker go without revealing himself for a lot longer and used her iPhone to frighten her more I think it would’ve been a scarier and more clever movie to watch. Truth be told I was rather bored for most of the film because the concept was more or less ruined. Another idea I wished they would’ve used is actually putting we the viewers in the head of Maddie by making the movie completely silent while he stalked her. Not for the whole movie of course but for a key scene or two to add to the handicap of the chilling unknown. I would’ve loved that idea as well.
Overall: I shit on most new horror films and for good reasons—they suck in one way or another. However, seeing as Hush had a great concept for a slasher (even though it was more or less wasted) and great actors certainly helped it. I’m not saying it’s a great movie, far from actually, but it’s still worth a look-see because the parts are good; they just don’t sum up to a terrific flick. Again that’s a shame. But since this is coming from the writer/director of the terrible Oculus, I can appreciate that he at least tries to think outside the typical horror movie box. Will I see his next movie? With hesitation that’s for sure.
Score: 6.5 voices in my head reminding me about other great horror movies (out of 10)