Director Mike Flanagan is a bit of a two-hit wonder. Not unlike Rob Zombie, who hit it out of the park with The Devil’s Rejects and House of 1,000 Corpses, but whose other work is largely forgettable, Flanagan has directed inspiring Stephen King-linked work like Gerald’s Game and Doctor Sleep, but has largely faltered elsewhere. That is the case with Hush, made all the more disappointing by the lively, frenetic opening that descends into silliness.
Co-starring and co-written by Flanagan’s wife, Kate Siegel, Hush invites us into the world of deaf-mute horror novelist Maddie Young.
She self-exiles to her cottage writing retreat in order to top the success of her debut novel. And her sole interaction comes from neighbour Sarah, who is boning up on her ASL to better connect with her friend, leading to some spirited and touching miscommunication.
When Sarah takes leave, Maddie, tapping away at the keyboard, experiences writers’ block, even adding funny little notes of self-doubt into her manuscript like “develop characters,” “get money.”
Suddenly, a masked crossbow-wielding assailant turns his medieval weaponry on Sarah and things go haywire, and sideways – at least according to the folks behind this site.
While it’s intriguing to see a deaf protagonist in horror using her wits while at a considerable physical disadvantage, director Flanagan doesn’t use silence to amp up the frights.
By contrast, in Watcher, a Romania-lensed horror about an apartment stalker, the filmmaker omits subtitles in order to recreate the confusion felt by the unilingual newcomer, deepening the empathy and inviting viewers into her perspective.
Another missed opportunity is a somewhat pedestrian creeper who bears a superficial similarity to rapper, Eminem. Ordinary can be extraordinary, evil can be banal (see, Joe Spinell in Maniac) but this antagonist sits in a no-man’s land of neither ordinary, nor scary enough.
Also, not having the antagonist use his unconventional, and inherently terrifying weaponry from the outset, is a shame: after all, being shot at by arrows is a scary proposition. However, when the masked maniac offs Sarah, he does it with a knife, and stabs sideways, straight out a stage play.
It’s underwhelming, to say the least, and detracts from some of the film’s numerous pluses, like dynamite performances, place setting and atmosphere, at least once the assailant cuts the power to the home.
As far as home invasion flicks go, check out Death Weekend or perhaps You’re Next instead.
*** (out of 5)