I have never been a fan of home invasion thrillers, not one bit quite frankly. The whole cat and mouse aspect is played out for me and in my opinion the best stories have already been told, manipulated, and told again… or so I thought. Roughly ten minutes into Hush and my chest is already tight and it will remain so for the duration of this brilliantly intense flick.
Conceived over dinner, Hush is the brainchild of husband and wife writing team, director Mike Flanagan (Oculus, Absentia) and leading lady Katie Siegel (Oculus). Siegel shines as Maddie Young, a deaf novelist who has retreated to the calming seclusion of the woods in hopes of finishing her latest book. Not entirely isolated, plucky neighbor Sara (Samantha Sloyan) pops in for a visit, giving insight as to the inner workings of Maddie’s mind and providing us with a large amount of the film’s mere fifteen minutes of dialogue. Sara’s next appearance is nothing short of nerve-racking when our unnamed killer played by John Gallagher Jr. (The West Wing, 10 Cloverfield Lane) brutally steps into the scene. A quick chat with her sister Max (Emma Graves) via FaceTime further connects us to Maddie and distracts her just long enough for the killer to begin his unnerving game of terror. The killer seems almost invigorated by his curiosity of Maddie, her handicap after all, allows him to employ new methods of psychological torture. Neighbor John (Michael Trucco) enters the story only to provide a sense of false hope to the naive. I feel inclined to note that there is a moment of irony here that I utterly and I suppose morbidly, appreciated. Maddie, despite her handicap or rather thanks to it, exhibits an incredible ability to adapt and displays a will to persevere that is so strong that I almost felt sorry for Gallagher’s character at points.
As expected in a film with such limited dialogue, the sound design plays an important role and Flanagan implements a few creative techniques here. The choice to apply ambient sounds in lieu of complete silence to capture Maddie’s perspective was not just ingenious but fluidly executed. The sound effects or lack thereof, do not distract from the visual storytelling but enhance it. There is no shortage of gore in Hush but it’s not overplayed either, the violence comes at a steady pace and is portrayed in a realistic manner. The plausibility of Hush is really what kept me enthralled. Gallagher captures the air of a killer wonderfully, there’s a twinkle in his eye, a curve of his lips that completely sells the killer’s passion for inducing fear. Siegel is a breath of fresh air in the role of female protagonist, a role that usually leaves me rooting for the bad guy and screaming obscenities at the screen in disgust of repeated bad decisions. Hush takes the home invasion thriller to a whole new level and I look forward to Flanagan and Siegel’s next twisted conception.