Hush (2016)

Hush-2016-600x300

Director:  Mike Flanagan

Written by: Mike Flanagan, Kate Siegel

A deaf and mute author defends her secluded country home from a murderous intruder.

Hush is brisk.  It clocks in at under ninety minutes, with most of the action taking place in real-time (though liberties are taken), in a single location, and with a cast of no fewer than five people.  It is precisely these constraints which make the film so rewarding.  Its focus is undiluted to a point that, as viewers, we always feel close at hand to the heroine’s plight.

It is no secret that most slasher films work largely by attrition.  The heroine and her stalker take turns in whittling each other down (mainly lacerating and bludgeoning), until a final scuffle — in which the heroine invariably lands the coup de grace — ends the film.  This routine is typically a bit frustrating, as the heroine is always bolting off after every check, rather than sticking around to finish the job.

Hush contains a number of scenes in which its heroine (supplied with humour and verve by Kate Siegel — also the film’s co-writer) is facing her attacker from a position of advantage, and yet, opts to limp away on a trick leg, rather than dispatch him.  Indeed, it often feels as though she could  best him at any moment.

However, the picture’s biggest offence is simply showing too much too soon.  Director Mike Flanagan squanders the opportunity to fully exploit his premise in the front-end, favouring instead a premature lurch into gory horror.

I couldn’t help but think the film might have done something really novel with its first kill.  The thought is undoubtedly there, but in execution, this set piece is somehow lacking.

In any case, these are only minor quibbles.  In the main, Flanagan has crafted an immensely enjoyable thriller, with enough momentum to hold its audience at full attention.  John Gallagher Jr. is especially unnerving as the smug, but gaffe-prone killer.  He plays the role with an inelegance, and a mouth-breathing coarseness, somewhere between Black Christmas’ Billy, and any number of young spree-shooters.  Commendably, he manages to capture the essential narcissism of sadists: a quality that many horror actors seem to overlook.

S.S.

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