If there’s anything that makes Hollywood salivate uncontrollably, it’s the thought of a cheaply made, rushed to market horror flick. Take recent “worst film of the year” contender The Other Side of the Door. It had lazy storytelling, one-dimensional characters and a laughably insane amount of jump scares that wouldn’t frighten a toddler. Twentieth Century Fox cared so little about marketing the cheap product, you’d be hard pressed to find someone who actually saw a trailer in theaters or on their television screen. Yet, the movie still made millions of dollars. Basically, while the number of “terror flicks” continues to increase, that pure feeling of dread and suspense necessary to make these films memorable continuously fails to appear. However, if other “horror” filmmakers can take the efforts of writer/director Mike Flanagan into account with his newest creation Hush, especially with how a scary story needs to be made, there just might still be hope for the genre after all.
Hush is a Netflix exclusive thriller written and directed by the aforementioned Flanagan, also known for fellow suspense films Oculus and Absentia. Katie Siegel (who also co-wrote the script) stars as Maddie, a writer who has isolated herself in the woodlands from her previous city life. Already having a published novel under her belt, Maddie finds herself in a bit of a struggle to finish her second one. Unbeknownst to her, however, is the presence of a demented killer played by John Gallagher, Jr. (who also starred as Emmett in the equally suspenseful 10 Cloverfield Lane) lurking outside of her residence. Shouldn’t be that hard to figure he’s out there, right? Well, there’s just one problem with that, Maddie is both mute and deaf.
The main character in a horror thriller being deaf just might sound like a gimmick to you, but believe me when I say that Hush is one of the most finely crafted, efficiently paced and spine chilling suspense flicks in the last decade. A surprisingly powerful aspect about the feature is how little dialogue there is throughout the run. Since Maddie is mute, all you are left with are her actions and inner thoughts to drive the suspense forward in her scenes and it works amazingly well. Most of the dialogue that is in the feature comes from the serial killer himself, but again, it’s more so his actions that define the intelligent cynicism that lurks within his mind. The fact that it’s all driven by moment to moment decisions, from both a victim and a killer, grabs your attention more than any easy slasher flick would ever dream to.
Additionally, Hush chooses not to rely on jump scares to convey the terror and paranoia of a home invasion story. There isn’t loud music that clashes out of nowhere with the killer appearing around a corner. If something happens to terrify the main character, it happens. He’s not afraid to play cat and mouse with Maddie, and while the killer has a great deal of method to his madness, Maddie is anything but helpless with her disability. The developers were incredibly smart to portray Maddie as both capable and resourceful, especially while the suspense continued to grow. In one scene, while Maddie is hiding under her patio, the killer climbs the stairs looking for her. Losing sight of him, Maddie places her hand on the wooden beams, feeling the vibrations of his foot steps. It may not sound like a big deal, but details like this prove the decision to make her character deaf wasn’t made out to be a gimmick, it was crafted to be an integral part of this narrative. On a side note, this film also gets an extra million points for being one of the few thriller flicks to feature a pet that DOESN’T die!
If I had to find something to gripe about this feature, it would probably be the inclusion of the background characters. Don’t get me wrong, Maddie’s friends are well-rounded and resourceful themselves, but their inclusion is more for the sake of spicing things up now and then as opposed to being absolutely essential to the story. Hush is solely meant to be about Maddie and the demented man toying with her, and that’s thankfully where the majority of the film stays.
Nevertheless, that’s a very minute gripe that shouldn’t sway you away from seeing Hush. Don’t just sit there waiting for Hollywood to pour out another Paranormal Activity or some new sequel slasher flick you keep pretending to be scary. Do yourself a favor: Grab a Netflix account, look up Hush, turn off all the lights and enjoy one of the smartest chillers the service has provided. Bolstered by intelligent characters and a nail-biting premise, Hush is easily one of the most striking scary stories 2016 has to offer.