Saturday, July 9, 2016

In short: Hush (2016)

After a bad break-up deaf mute – and no, happily the film’s not just using this as a gimmick - writer Maddie (Kate Siegel, who also co-wrote the film with her husband, director Mike Flanagan) has moved into the splendid isolation of a house in the woods. It’s not quite as out of the way as these houses often are in horror films: the nearest neighbours (Samantha Sloyan and Michael Trucco) are in walking distance, there’s working Wi-Fi, and even the police seems to be relatively close.

Nonetheless, Maddie soon finds herself in trouble. A serial killer (John Gallagher Jr.) wants to play home invasion with what must look like an easy victim to him; turns out the bastard just might have bitten off more than he can chew.

So, Mike Flanagan’s a bit of a great director, isn’t he? Leaving the supernatural elements of his earlier films behind, this one’s a splendid variation on the home invasion movie, though spiced up with more siege elements in the classic Carpenter (or classic-classic Hawks) style, and avoiding everything I dislike about most home invasion movies. So the subtext about the evil of poor people is replaced by some rather more interesting commentary about various kinds of isolation, the suburban yuppie vacuum protagonist by a deftly written author who is actually likeable, and the sub-genre’s love for sadism is replaced with less unpleasant yet sturdier thriller gestures.

That last point doesn’t mean Hush is a film that pulls its punches: Maddie and the other characters still go through a lot of horrible stuff but Flanagan has such a tight control over the material he reaches greater effect through being less sensationalist. This tightness is one of the film’s greatest strengths and feels very much like script and direction working in perfect concert at keeping things lean but never too lean. There’s something fearsomely effective about the handful of scenes the film uses to introduce Maddie, with no wasted line in the script, no wasted gesture in Siegel’s – rather fantastic – performance yet still the film avoids the impression of simplifying overmuch.

That’s really Hush in a nutshell: sharp writing that doesn’t need to make its characters stupid, and tight yet elegant direction meet excellent acting (Siegel’s opponent as portrayed by John Gallagher Jr. is nearly as impressive as she is, and stays threatening even though he’s never played as being superhuman) and turn the film into something which transform quite a few played-out tropes into something that feels alive again.

No comments: