Admittedly, I knew nothing about Hush – not even that it was a film at all – when I saw it show up on Netflix. But the cover art (are we still calling it ‘cover art’?) looked pretty cool with it’s creepy masked guy. So I put it in my queue. Soon after its Netflix debut, I read a few positive tweets about it from some reliable folks. Now that I’ve seen it and looked into it a bit more, I know that it is from director Mike Flanagan of Oculus and Absentia fame. Both pretty decent films. So this one has to be good, right?
Maddie is a deaf novelist with some sophomore writer’s block staying in a secluded cabin in rural wherever. One dark night, her neighbor, Sarah, brings trouble when she escapes a sadistic serial killer and makes it to Maddie’s cabin only to pound in vain upon Maddie’s (apparently bulletproof) patio doors. (funny, Sarah took the time to learn sign language to talk to Maddie, but she didn’t remember that she’d need to signal her in some non-aural way when seeking her help) The masked serial killer catches up to Sarah, realizes that Maddie can’t hear, and (after dispatching Sarah) shifts his sights onto the hearing-impaired woman. His plan to toy with her while keeping her trapped in her house turns out to be a lot harder than he expected it to be.
First, the good: Hush features some great scenes of heightened anxiety and peril with its cat-and-mouse siege story. The killer oozes smug menace as the supposed powerful upper-hand. He toys with Maddie so cold-heartedly that the viewer can’t help but hold her/his breath with sympathy anxiety at a few points in the film. And that mask is creepy as hell. Kate Siegel is fine as the deaf-from-a-childhood-virus woman-pushed-to-the-edge. (i’m going to have to look up the rules for hyphenating phrases some day) Her character is strong but suffers some relatable weaknesses (ie: ex-boyfriend complications). And… that’s it. Now, the bad: Hush collapses under the weight of its own central plot device. This is its largest sin. The audience is told that Maddie is deaf but can feel the vibrations of loud noises like those of her loud fire alarm. This vibration sensing is so effective, that the soundwaves could wake her up. Now, I’m no scientist (technically, i’m just a science educator with a minor in general science), but I think that sensitivity would extend to large glass doors being pounded on mere feet from your person. Or windows being broken out in a tiny enclosed room (and that doesn’t even take into account the wind/weather that would be introduced in doing so). Ok – so maybe she overstated her sensitivity to sound vibrations. But she also said that she does hear a voice in her head (she’s not deaf from birth) and that it’s always her mother’s voice. So, what do we hear when it’s time for the audience to hear that internal monologue? Kate Siegel’s voice of course! (wait- what?) And if you’re not sure if it’s her voice or not, we’re also treated to an imaginary her talking to herself. The fact that she daydreams about herself in third person is thrust upon us without warning in an especially frustrating, cheap cliche. (like, really cheap. but i won’t spoil it) These problems smack of poor storytelling or a lack of clear vision. Either way, it detracts from the experience immensely. Poor character motivations, a ‘how did he get there already’ killer, the removal of the creepy mask early in the film (never to be seen again) – are all lesser sins that only drag the film down even further.
The Final Cut: Hush features a few quality frights, but can’t overcome some fundamental problems that distract the viewer too much to make an enjoyable experience.