“A deaf writer who retreated into the woods to live a solitary life must fight for her life in silence when a masked killer appears at her window.” — IMDb
Hush came about as a result of director Mike Flanagan’s desire to make a movie “without dialogue”, which is pretty awesome if you ask me. Co-written with Kate Siegel, who also stars in the film, they went to great lengths to create an experience that was stripped bare enough to make you feel as if you’re in the house with them, but also packed with enough ambient noise to keep you involved and engaged, and it totally worked.
The story centers around Maddie (co-writer Kate Siegel), an author who lives alone in the woods and who has been both deaf and mute since the age of 13 after a bout of bacterial meningitis. When she begins being terrorized by a masked man outside her house, she is determined to survive but faced with challenges at every turn…
** SPOILERS! **
I think this movie worked so well for me because it was just non-stop tension without trying too hard to make it that way. It has a fairly short running time to begin with (just 81 minutes), but I swear it felt like maybe 10 minutes had gone by when I paused and saw there were only 25 minutes left to go. It FLEW by. The lead in time is quick but effective, and then bam, he’s outside her window taunting her.
It was also surprisingly realistic. There are so many similar movies where either the villain or the victim is just unreasonably skilled at one thing or another that ends up aiding in their success, similar to watching an action movie and seeing a run-of-the-mill guy suddenly be doing roundhouse kicks to evade an attacker — it just isn’t true to life. But both Maddie and her stalker have slip-ups throughout the film, they have weaknesses. She struggles for a good long time with that crossbow (and just barely gets it working). He has an altercation with the neighbor’s husband after he is clearly struggling to convince him that he’s a police officer. I think it reminds us that these are just two humans in a battle against each other.
Which brings me to the attacker removing his mask. I initially didn’t like this move — I thought him hiding behind the anonymity was better, scarier — but again, I realized it humanized him, which actually had the same effect. It made him a more terrifying figure when you were reminded that he’s just a person, because you realize that’s ALL you can relate to.
I liked the tie in of her being an author. She tells her friend, Sarah (Samantha Sloyan), that she has a voice in her head — her mother’s voice — that helps (and sometimes hinders) her in finding an ending for her novels and stories. When she is getting desperate, we have a chance of seeing that inner voice, which they portrayed as another Maddie sitting and talking to her own self. I feel like I would normally think such a thing was cheesy, but in this context it really worked and, more than that, it felt empowering.
Probably the coolest thing about the whole film is, indeed, her deafness. It takes what would be a horrifying experience even in the best circumstances and ramps it up about 100 notches. There are more obvious aspects, like her not being able to hear Sarah desperately pounding on the glass door, trying to get help, and more subtle ones, like the fact that she can’t hear the leaves crunching under her feet when she tries to sneak around outside. She can’t hear Sarah’s husband knocking on the patio door, trying to check on her and find out if she’s seen Sarah. It just adds a whole layer of complexity to the home intruder scenario because she can’t simply escape out a window and run away through the woods, hiding behind trees and under logs because she has to rely 100% on her sight to do so. On multiple occasions she tries and is almost immediately thwarted. For once, the victim is safer locked inside their home, which brings her to the inevitable conclusion of needing to either fight or die.
And really, that’s part of what makes her such an amazing final girl. Once she talks herself through her options and realizes that she’ll die no matter what she chooses, she decides to take him head on and try. She quickly writes up a description of him on her laptop and adds “died fighting” at the end and just waits for him to come get her… but not before she straight up TAUNTS HIM and encourages him to waltz right in. The scene with her sitting next to the tub as he slowly climbs in the bathroom window, feeling his breath on her neck before it segues into her whizzing around to stab him in slow motion… awesome. The final confrontation with them was great, too — you have a moment where you really think he got her, that maybe they will end the movie on a note that dark — but she has one last bit of fight left in her. So good.
Ultimately, a great non-stop bit of action with a cool twist. Highly recommended!
Rating: 7.5/10 | Director: Mike Flanagan | Writer: Mike Flanagan, Kate Siegel | Music: The Newton Brothers | Cinematography: James Kniest | Starring: Kate Siegel, John Gallagher Jr., Michael Trucco, Samantha Sloyan, Emma Graves