Netflix’s new horror film Hush, from director Mike Flanagan (Oculus) and co-writer/star Kate Siegel, is the latest entry in the long list of home invasion horror films.
We all know how these films usually play out, with past experience from films like You’re Next, The Strangers, and Straw Dogs to pull from. Hush, however, still manages to stand out due to its sole main character being deaf and mute. This leaves our protagonist infinitely more vulnerable to her intruder when compared to the victims in other films of this ilk, and helps to make for a refreshingly unique and incredibly fun take on the genre.
Working with a brisk running time of only 81 minutes, Hush swiftly sets up its story and characters. Our protagonist is Maddie (Kate Siegel), a novelist living alone in a cottage in the woods. Our antagonist (John Gallagher Jr.) bears no name, comes stocked with a crossbow, and wears a creepy white mask. After some minimal character moments between Maddie and her neighbor Sarah (Samantha Sloyan), Hush takes as little time as possible to get going, with the intruder showing up at Maddie’s home no more than 15 minutes in.
The rest of the film is Maddie vs. her intruder, and makes for one of the most intense — and interesting — horror film experiences I’ve had in a long time. Flanagan expertly uses Maddie’s disability to create a suspenseful and realistic horror film, whereas I could easily see another director incorrectly using her deafness as a cheap gimmick. Flanagan avoids the jump scare (a lot of jump scares rely on a character being able to react to a sound and in turn screaming, after all), instead creating a rare sense of vulnerability in both Maddie and audience.
Surprisingly, maybe the most refreshing aspect of the film isn’t in Maddie’s inability to hear, but instead in her intelligence. There’re rarely points in this film where you can fault Maddie for a decision she makes. It’s also a testament to her character that she isn’t as helpless as you’d initially think she is, and she has a hell of a lot of fight in her, too. I truly do think that she is one of the most likable, strong, and smart horror film heroines to come around in quite some time.
Our antagonist, too, is impeccably scary and exciting to watch. John Gallagher Jr. (10 Cloverfield Lane) gives a notable performance as an experienced serial killer who, upon finding out about Maddie’s disability, begins to taunt her. He knows he can easily break into her house without her knowing, and he acknowledges this with the sadistic line, “I can get you anytime I want, but I’m not going to. Not until it’s time. Not until you wish you were dead. That’s when I’ll come inside.” Yeah, I know, it’s a quote that’s sure to send shudders down your spine.
Hush is an entirely impressive film that utilizes a great concept and completely runs with it. Director Mike Flanagan creates here a smart, taut thriller, featuring memorable characters in a film that is at all times entertaining, terrifying, and unique. It’s not only one of my favorite horror films of the past few years, but when thinking of the other home invasion films I’ve seen in the past, it’s also the absolute best one of those, too.
— Michael Lane, Blog Editor