HUSH (2016) – OK Horror Movie Is Too Quiet At Times

hush poster

Shh!

HUSH!

Why the silence?  Because today I’m revieiwng HUSH (2016), a new horror movie about a deaf woman terrorized by an insane killer.  It’s available now on Netflix Streaming.

HUSH was written and directed by Mike Flanagan, the same guy who brought us OCULUS (2013), a horror movie I wasn’t all that crazy about.

HUSH tells a rather simple story.  Deaf author Maddie (Kate Siegel) lives alone in a secluded house in the woods, where she spends her days working on her novel.  She is close to her neighbors, a woman named Sarah (Samantha Sloyan), who visits her in the opening scene of the movie, and Sarah’s husband John (Michael Trucco).

Life is good, until one night when a masked killer (John Gallagher Jr.) armed with a deadly crossbow shows up at her door and decides he’s going to spend the night terrorizing her before ultimately slaying her. Maddie immediately tries to use her laptop to call 911, but the killer cuts the power to her house, rendering her server, router, and modem useless.  Maddie then spends the rest of the movie trying to stay alive, as she not only needs to defend herself against the killer, but she also has to find a way to escape from him.

Been there, done that.

And that’s the biggest issue I had with HUSH.  It’s nothing I hadn’t seen before, and there’s nothing about it that makes it better than those similar films that had come before it.

That being said, it’s a polished good looking flick, it’s got good acting, and it has a couple of interesting scenes, so it’s not all bad.  It’s just not all that exciting either.

It gets off to a good start.  I enjoyed the opening scene between Maddie and Sarah.  It establishes Maddie as a likeable character, someone I felt I could easily care for.  The killer’s initial entrance is also a good one, as we first see him when he brutally murders Sarah.  It’s a violent scene, and in terms of shock value I thought it scored high on the fright meter.  The killer definitely caught my attention at this point.

But then, strangely, the film takes a nose dive.  The killer confronts Maddie, and the cat and mouse games begin.  This is where the suspense should have taken over, but to my surprise it really didn’t.  It becomes one of those movies where there are lots of scenes without dialogue where Maddie is creeping around her house, looking for ways to escape.  She then tries to escape,the killer stops her, she retreats back into her house, and the process repeats itself.  This part of the movie bored me to tears and I really had a difficult time sitting through it.

It also suffered somewhat from the “Home Alone” syndrome, where Maddie would play the role of Macaulay Culkin and find ways to inflict pain on the killer, who would groan and grunt a la poor Joe Pesci and Daniel Stern.  Not something a horror movie should be proud of.

Things do get better though, around the time Sarah’s husband John shows up, mostly because it introduces a third character, which if nothing else, provides the movie with some much needed dialogue.  And I thought the ending worked, even if it wasn’t anything I hadn’t seen before.  Basically, Maddie uses her writer’s brain to evaluate the various “endings” which in this case means her options for escape.    I thought this worked, and the ending was one of the more exciting parts of the movie.

I really enjoyed Kate Siegel as Maddie.   She does a nice job bringing the deaf character to life and gives her a lot of energy, making her a believable heroine when she fights off her attacker.  One criticism however is I never found her to be as frightened as I imagine she would have been.  I didn’t get the sense that she felt she might die at any second.  Siegel also starred in OCULUS, and I enjoyed her more here in HUSH than in that other horror movie.

For the most part, I enjoyed John Gallagher Jr.as the killer.  At first, he’s wearing a mask, and as much as I like masks in horror movies, I thought this one was rather silly, and when he finally took it off, I was glad.  The mask had this silly grin which reminded me of David Naughton in AN AMERICAN WEREWOLF IN LONDON (1981).  I kept expecting Griffin Dunne to show up beside him.

However, even without the mask, the character struggled to exhibit any personality.  We never really get to know much about this killer other than he’s just some random psycho, which to me, hurt this movie.  Give this guy a background story and it gets that much better.  We do get to see more of his personality as the film goes along, and the character eventually grew on me as a villain, but I can’t say that I thought he was all that scary or disturbing.  Gallagher is up to the task of getting inside this character’s head, but there’s just not much there to play with.  Gallagher was also in the recent 10 CLOVERFIELD LANE (2016) and in that movie he was given much more to do and was able to deliver a stronger performance.

The screenplay by director Mike Flanagan and lead actress Kate Siegel is okay.  I liked the premise, I thought Maddie was a strong main character, and there were some shockingly violent scenes, but the film suffers through a long stretch where nothing much happens. The killer needed to be developed more, which would have helped the story.

I thought Flanagan did a fine job directing.  The first murder is a brutal stabbing death that really grabs your attention, and some of the scenes near the end also worked, like when Maddie gets her hand stuck in the door, and the killer mercilessly crushes it with his foot.  The film also looks slick and polished and doesn’t come off as low budget at all.

There’s just not a lot to this one.  HUSH really needed something more, an edge of some sort, to make it stand out from similar horror films of its type.

All in all, not bad.  It’s a good looking thriller, it’s got some scary parts here and there, but at times it’s just a little too— hushed.

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