Written by: Mike Flanagan & Kate Siegel
Starring: John Gallagher Jr., Michael Trucco, Kate Siegel
Home invasion tales used for terrifying effect always leave a mark in films because of the reality existent in them. It can be easy to watch a film about a large fictional monster because no matter how well it may be depicted, something internally within us will always know it’s not real. Horror films utilizing home invasion do not provide a similar respite with the reality of this happening to anybody, which occurs in the haunting and gruesome Hush, which takes this subgenre and adds a few wrinkles to maximize its potential.
Staying in her fairly isolated cabin out in the woods, Maddie (Kete Siegel) hopes to get writing on a new novel when she gets interrupted by a man trying to break into her house and kill her. With Maddie losing her hearing and ability to speak from a disease years ago, she finds herself in quite the challenging position to try and survive seeing as this man will not go away without a fight.
Having someone try to break into your home, alone, brings enough fright but the added element of Maddie’s physical disabilities makes this an even more terrifying affair. Without the ability to hear puts her at a huge disadvantage as not even the squeakiest wood panel or door will help her decipher where this man is coming from. Instead, she needs to rely on her other senses with sight being the most important in order to survive this night. It becomes a waiting game filled with taunting from this killer, which makes for an aggravating and sensational visual and audio experience.
With the massive success of a film like The Strangers, so much of the horror of that movie came from the identity of the killers never being revealed to the audience. In the end, we never see it even if other characters do, leaving this idea of these individuals potentially being our neighbors or anyone else just bored enough to do some killing. Hush breaks away from this straightaway to solidify this man will not leave Maddie alone and certainly will not leave until he takes away her last breath. While this facet does not contain the same horror elements of the aforementioned home invasion film, it still brings so much more to appreciate in a different sense.
Part of that certainly comes from the physical disabilities Maddie has wherein moments it gets utilized to a tremendous narrative effect like in the scene where the protagonist’s friend slams on her door looking for sanctuary from the killer. As the audience, we see this cry for help knowing someone’s coming after her, but Maddie, with her back turned to the glass door cannot hear, therefore has no idea her friend just got killed right outside her door. This solidifies her disadvantage to the killer but also ensures Mike Flanagan will provide other moments where we know the danger Maddie’s in and how she may not be aware of it until it becomes too late.
Simplicity becomes the name of the game with this feature because Maddie’s house serves as the entire set for this feature. It serves as both her sanctuary but also her prison as the killer knows it and takes away all avenues of escape for her. Trying to flee may be the only way to fully get away but then she loses the safety of her four walls. This dual purpose really has an impact and continually builds the tension while increasing a sense of hopelessness where Maddie doubts she will be able to survive this man’s torment. This feeling then seeps over to the audience as we see no way this could have a happy ending, which only further solidifies the incredible work done here by this strong pair of collaborators.
Not until watching the Haunting of Hill House did it become apparent to me Mike Flanagan and Kate Siegel have built this ironclad partnership, with this feature serving as one of their earlier works. One of the most underrated duos out there, these two do such a marvelous job in both penning the script and then through Flanagan’s direction and Siegel’s acting. They take this original idea and squeeze out everything truly horrifying about this subgenre. Siegel needs to communicate so much merely through her facial expressions because of the character she portrays. She also musters the strength to handle the brutality on display here both in a mental and physical sense with what Maddie endures. As we’ve seen by now Flanagan has something against hands.
Running at a brisk 81 minutes, Hush gets in and out with its story filled with plenty of fright as Maddie gets trapped in a sadistic game of her will getting broken down. Several scenes will not be kind to those who are squeamish but it all gets done in service of a strong film containing no fat. May Flanagan and Siegel continue this fantastic partnership because everything they touch has evidently turned to gold.