Hush : A Review of Mike Flanagan’s Return to Low Budget Film

 

After 2013’s “Oculus”, Mike Flanagan returns to direct low budget film “Hush”, which premiered at the SXSW Film Festival and was released on Netflix in April. “Hush” was co-written with the movie’s lead actress, Kate Siegel, and unlike some of Mike Flanagan’s previous films, namely “Absentia”, the premise of “Hush” is simple: a secluded author, who is also mute and deaf, is stalked by a sadistic killer. The premise resembles “Wait Until Dark”, a 1967 Audrey Hepburn thriller based on the stage play of the same name, but the similarities between these two movies ends there.

Kate Siegel plays the heroine Maddie Young, an author who has been deaf since she contracted meningitis at the age of 13. Maddie lives in a secluded house in the woods and is unsure of her ability to finish her second novel. We meet Maddie as she chops onions, scrolls through recipes on her laptop, replies to dinging text messages, and lets fresh steak simmer on the stove. These sounds thin into a background of silence, and yet Maddie is still operating efficiently in this alien stillness. This is her world, and in this world she is used to being resourceful.

Enter our maniac who stabs Maddie’s neighbor repeatedly against the window. Intrigued by Maddie’s lack of awareness, he walks around her house as she attempts to write her novel. Equipped with a bow and arrow and a hunting knife, said maniac, played by John Gallagher Jr., decides to have fun instead of killing her outright, but Maddie is not as vulnerable as he expected.

Mike Flanagan is a confident director who finds no need for the usual jump and scare tactics of the psychological thriller. Instead the frights come from mounting tension, precise editing and camera tracking, and the full use of its single location in a two-story house.  The cat-and-mouse-games are initially terrifying, but lose steam during the second half of the middle act. Several obvious choices expectant of the genre padded the film to give its 82 minutes, and a scene in which Maddie is contemplating her options seems to violate the prevailing argument of silence and minimal sound the film previously attested. 

It is not an entirely innovative film, but it is an enjoyable reflection of its genre and how to cleverly use of a small budget. There is also a great level of respect that must be had for Maddie, whose cerebral attempts to outwit her opponent sometimes result in gruesome, bloody consequences if she fails.

Check out the trailer for the movie below:

 

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