Hush full movie review - Mike Flanagan, a new master of horror
Author Maddie Young (Kate Siegel) lives a life of utter isolation after losing her hearing via bacterial meningitis at age 13. She's retreated form society, living in seclusion, and existing in a completely silent world.
But one night, that fragile world is shattered when the masked face of a psychotic, crossbow-wielding killer (John Gallagher, Jr.) appears in her window. Without another living soul for miles, and with no way to call for help, it appears that Maddie is at the killer's mercy, but he may have underestimated his prey. As this horrifying game of cat and mouse escalates to a breathless fever pitch, Maddie must push herself beyond her mental and physical limits in order to survive the night.
My introduction to the works of writer and director Mike Flanagan came about in April of 2014 when I saw his independent horror thriller Oculus in theaters. I had a blast with that film. It was clever, it was creative, it was intense, and it dripped with dread, tension, and atmosphere. With Flanagan's Before I Wake getting pushed back several times due to Relativity Media's filing for bankruptcy, Netflix picked up Hush (his second collaboration with Blumhouse after Oculus) and released it worldwide on April 8th. With Hush, Mike Flanagan has now fully proved himself to be one of the new masters of horror, right up there with James Wan, Ti West, and Alexandre Aja among others.
If this and Oculus are any indication, Mike Flanagan is masterful at creating chilling atmosphere and building up nerve-wracking tension. Very unexpectedly so, the horror starts quite early into the film and both the tension and suspense never let up. The scares Flanagan and co-writer/lead star Kate Siegel (husband and wife in real life) create are genuine, not false. Whereas many other modern horror films rely on cheap jump scares, CGI overload, and characters making dumb decisions for the sake of the plot to shock and frighten, Hush takes its time in conceiving true scares. The intense violence also gets pretty brutal and gory as the film goes on, but in a way that's not over-the-top but instead helps serve a purpose to the story and add to it.
One of the biggest pros and surprises in any modern horror film is good characters. Hush focuses on only two. Let's first focus on Siegel's lead protagonist, Maddie, who finds herself in a game of cat and mouse with the villain and has to rely on her keen wit in order to survive his wrath. Aside from conversations she stages with a speaking variant of herself in her head, Maddie doesn't speak a single line of dialogue in the film and she still manages to be one of the most likable, resourceful, and whip-smart horror protagonists in years. This is a very physical performance that must have be incredibly hard to pull off, but luckily, Siegel knocks it out of the park, delivering a terrific lead performance and I sincerely hope she gets more work after this. She is wonderful (not to mention, so gorgeous).
But as the old saying goes, the hero is only as good as the villain. Hush definitely doesn't disappoint in this area. As the psychotic killer stalking Maddie, John Gallagher, Jr. works wonders in this role. He scared the ever-living hell out of me with his performance. His character is motiveless and yet that trait the character has works surprisingly incredibly well for the film. He starts off wearing a mask and is already very menacing, but when he takes the mask off, he manages to become even more so. Gallagher delivers one of the most intense performances of the year and after this and 10 Cloverfield Lane, I'm very much looking forward to seeing what he has under his belt next.
Flanagan and Siegel's screenplay is very cleverly written, trying to ground the series of events happening in reality with good results. Is it entirely realistic? Admittedly, not really. There are some occasional bothersome lapses in logic and common sense, but for the most part, it's believable enough for me to take what's going on seriously. Fresh off of replicating James Wan & John R. Leonetti's visual style of The Conjuring for its prequel/spin-off Annabelle, D.P. James Kniest teams with Flanagan here and his work here is breathtaking. This is a very good-looking film and Kniest's smooth camera-work and perfect lighting add to the tense atmosphere Flanagan creates alongside the fantastic musical score composed by the Newton Brothers.
In summary, if you want to see a good example of how the horror genre hasn't lost all of its dignity just yet, you should definitely check this out if you have the chance. It is well worth your time. With beautifully written characters, terrific performances, atmospheric cinematography and direction, and wonderfully built up tension, Hush comes highly recommended.