Monday, April 11, 2016

Review: Hush

by Adam Riske
There might be something to this Mike Flanagan guy…

As a big admirer of 2013’s Oculus, I’ve been eagerly awaiting a follow-up from writer-director Mike Flanagan. To my good fortune, he’s due to release three features in 2016: Before I Wake, Ouija 2 (ugh!) and Hush. As evidenced by Hush, Flanagan seems to have the goods -- especially when it comes to developing suspense and atmosphere. Even better fortune, you can watch Hush right now on Netflix (where it premiered this week). So simply put -- no excuses. Go stream this indie horror flick. It’s a bummer it won’t play in theaters (same with Adam Wingard’s upcoming Death Note) but these days I’m all about convenience so I guess its ok. It’s just the way the wheel is turning in film distribution. The consolation is that Netflix will give the film a wide audience right from the outset.
The main reason to see Hush is the stellar lead performance from star, co-writer and Flanagan’s real-life wife Kate Siegel. Resembling Angelina Jolie (at least I think so), Siegel brings a similar gravitas and toughness to her performance as Maddie, a deaf-mute novelist being terrorized in her secluded home by a mysterious stranger. Buoyed a bit by the rest of the small cast, Siegel is what kept me interested throughout. This movie would not work nearly as well without her. The plot is reminiscent (possibly even derivative) of other films such as Wait Until Dark, The Strangers and You’re Next, but Flanagan seems to know that so he brings neat little twists to the film and is helped by having a brief 87 minute runtime. It’s a lean machine, with no B-plots, and though it’s slight it is also never less than diverting.

I do have some gripes about Hush. I wasn’t a big fan of the attacker in the film. The actor portraying him (who I’ve seen in other movies and liked) simply does not have the physical presence or intimidation factor the role requires. I guess it helps in making the hero-villain showdown seem more evenly matched, but I do wish he was more imposing. He also seems to be very aware he is evil so he does a lot of indication acting like scowling and such. It feels more like a high-schooler’s approximation of playing this role than a professional actor. Also, I might have missed it but I couldn’t figure out if the bad guy had a motive. It bugged me during my viewing of Hush. I also think the movie trades off between being inventive with the setting and also running out of ideas with it so certain sequences work while others feel tired. Lastly, I didn’t like a sequence about 2/3 of the way into the movie which felt like a cheat (you’ll know the one I’m talking about when you see the movie).
This review will be a little shorter for me than most because I don’t have much else to say about Hush other than its pretty good and worth a viewing on Netflix. It’s a total style exercise, a calling card for its performers and director. It’s also a triumph of technique (the sound design is great so much so that the title card reveal made me jump) and features a great score by The Newton Brothers (this one reminded me at times of the one from Heat [by Elliot Goldenthal] actually, particularly the end credits music). The movie isn’t about much so digging into its themes is proving challenging but not all movies are meant to do more than entertain, so with that in mind, I think Hush succeeds on its intentions. Still, I can’t wait for Before I Wake. Keep up the good work Flanagans!


  1. It's a stellar little flick. Flanagan is the real deal.
    Also, I agree with Adam that Siegel made me think of Angelina Jolie on at least two occasions (both were when she was holding a weapon and she had a very serious "I'm going to fucking kill you" face on).

  2. "I didn’t like a sequence about 2/3 of the way into the movie which felt like a cheat" - dude, that part really pissed me off. They tried to make up for it by running through a bunch of scenarios but it was better left out of the film.

    You are correct, they did not give the villain a motive however I kind-of figured they weren't going too so it didn't bother me. Overall, I really liked Hush and I generally do not like home invasion films. This is one of the best examples of handling one correctly. And as I mentioned in the open thread - No cheap jump scares - that's a ballsy move to stay away from in this type of film.

  3. I liked it about the same. I agree about the villain. I think we see his face way too early and if you were going to reveal it, it had to be good. I kind of went "this is it?". I also agree with you about the cheat. It took me out of the movie. Chaybee, I'm glad you specified "cheap" jump scares. I love a jump scare if it's done well. Ouija was a huge piece of shit so I guarantee his version has to be better. In summation, I agree with everything.

  4. Huge fan of the horror and psych/thriller genres, and this film was entertaining.
    "2/3 cheat" was just another twist, didn't bother me much since I've seen worse (cliché OTT killed-in-a-dream) sequences.

    Kate does look like Jolie, reminded me of her throughout the whole film, but Kate's softer and more believable in a role like this. She's great.

    As for killer with no motive- that's cool. Not everyone needs one to be psychopathic and kill for sport (good choice on his weaponry).

    Fun to watch, and I can't thank the crew enough for toying with us with the animal but not depicting any harm coming to it. Seriously...thank you.

  5. That sequence is probably the weakest thing in the movie, but I don't think it's a cheat. It might not exactly jive with the whole vibe, but Flanagan sets it up the multiple choices as her central non-psycho-killer conflict, and then has her resolve that conflict outwardly in brutal fashion.

    Seemed more like a throwback to me. I can't come up with any examples right now, but I know that there have been a few films where the writer protagonist has to resolve their problems finishing/starting a story by escaping/defeating an antagonist with their creative skills.

    I thought the mystery psycho performance was pretty satisfying. He could have gone more broad, with of the Purge-esque looking at the camera and cocking ones head while masked. Or amping up the crazy-eyes. I loved that he didn't go that route, or going the other way and using a completely flat affect. He seemed like an actual person who just likes killing. Which, to me, is more scary than the extremes. It made the whole scene with Sam from Battlestar Galactica more plausible. He's using the same demeanor with the boyfriend as he is with the girl, and it makes the boyfriend's uncertainty ring true.

    Anyway. Thanks a million for the recommendation, this was a great watch.