2016. Rated R, 81 minutes.
John Gallagher Jr.
Maddie (Siegel) is a novelist who has isolated herself by living alone pretty much in the middle of nowhere. She has made friends with next door neighbor Sarah (Sloyan). Next door, however, is a completely relative term. There is a stretch of woods long enough that the two can't see each other's houses. There are no street lights, either. Sarah comes over to Maddie's, hangs out a bit, and heads back home because her boyfriend is coming by soon. A short while later, we see a bloodied Sarah slamming into the glass door of Maddie's kitchen, screaming for help when some dude in a mask from John Carpenter's garage sale comes up and stabs the hell out of her about a thousand times and lets her lifeless body drop to the ground. Despite being in the kitchen, Maddie is completely unaware of what's going on because not only does she have her back turned to the door, she's also deaf. The crazy dude manages to get into the house and figures out she can't hear. He then decides he's going to toy with her for a while before killing her. Let the games begin.
Hush does a lot of things right. Chief among those is mounting the tension as the film goes on. It does this in two ways. First, it makes us strategize along with her as she tries to figure a way out of this mess. She's obviously smarter than her assailant, but he isn't an idiot. He's smart enough to catch to what she's doing before her plans are fully successful. This leads to the second way. Through the results of Maddie's various escape attempts she gets wounded and battered. Her inherent physical disadvantages are added to. This helps maintain the idea that the stakes are at the highest possible point for our heroine and keeps us on the edge of our seat. The mysteriousness of the villain also aids in the matter. The film forgoes manufacturing some motivation which would only come off as half-cocked. Instead, it lets him remain a nameless, faceless threat. I say faceless fully realizing that we eventually see plenty of his actual face. There's nothing all that distinguishable about it, and we never learn his name. He's listed in the credits as Man (Gallagher Jr.). Man is just a normal looking dude on a not-so-normal mission. The fact he's not a guy you would look twice at if you passed him on the street makes him all the more terrifying.
The movie's constant build up is necessary to overcome its biggest flaw. It should probably be over ten minutes after the bad guy shows up. It goes out of its way to explain why he wants to take his sweet time with Maddie. However, we know two things about him. For one, he generally works pretty quickly. It's not all that long between Sarah getting home and her dying at Maddie's door. In light of this is seems a little odd he would pass up opportunities to kill Maddie in a similar fashion given he hasn't been scouting her beforehand and doesn't really know no one is coming to visit. For some viewers, this might prove a powerful deterrent to becoming fully invested in the film.
In the lead role, Kate Siegel does more than her fair share of getting us invested. She co-wrote the film. I'm hardly one to disparage writers since they're my favorite people in the world, but in this case that's hardly her crowning achievement. The story is thin enough that nothing particularly special was done other than the restraint she and co-writer and director Mike Flanagan showed by not over writing it. The bulk of Siegel's work is done in front of the camera. She gives a remarkable performance that toes the line between scream queen and badass. Behind the camera, Flanagan masterfully cranks up the tension without a lot of obvious genre histrionics. The result is a taut thriller/horror hybrid that strings us along without us minding. We don't mind because the cat-and-mouse between our two main characters grows in intensity as it goes along. Sides are drawn pretty clearly. We know who we're supposed to root for and against. Despite the ease of this we still become actively immersed. This adds to our enjoyment of the film. Adding even more to that enjoyment, Hush plays on our fears of home invasion by murderous strangers and ups the ante by making our protagonist deaf. This gives it an air of freshness even as it travels familiar cinematic terrain.