The main protagonist of the effective and suspenseful film “Hush” is Maddie, a successful writer, portrayed by Kate Siegel (Oculus). She has moved from the big city to a house in the relative seclusion of the country. Maddie is friends with her nearest neighbor, Sarah, played by Samantha Sloyan (Grey’s Anatomy). After Sarah finishes reading one of Maddie’s novels, she stops by to return it, as well as compliment her on her writing prowess. The two women are communicating by sign language. This is necessary because Maddie became deaf, and lost the ability to talk, when she was thirteen years old, due to a severe case of meningitis. (As an aside the movie contains only fifteen minutes of spoken dialogue out of the film’s 81 minute runtime).
A nameless killer, whose character is simply credited as ‘Man,’ and is acted by John Gallagher Jr. (10 Cloverfield Lane), arrives on the scene. He is first seen chasing Sarah, who runs to Maddie’s sliding glass door. She desperately begins banging her hand on the glass hoping that Maddie, who is cooking in the kitchen, will turn around and see that she is being attacked, but it is to no avail. The killer, after stabbing Sarah, and removing her body from in front of the door, has sensed something is not right about the situation. He returns to the sliding door, and at first taps on the glass with his knife. Next, he starts pounding his fist hard on the glass, and realizes that the woman inside can’t hear. Her disability intrigues him, and he decides to make Maddie his next victim. There is no back story given pertaining to the murdering, psychopath. The only clue a viewer can speculate on, is that Sara has joined a number of other individuals he’s killed. This is due to horizontal scratch marks that are lined up in a numerical pattern etched into the side of a crossbow he carries; a weapon he will use to torment Maddie. While the killer at first wears a mask, after a short time, he discards it. He is not concerned about concealing his face, as did, for example, Jason Voorhees from “Friday the 13th.” (As an aside: There is only one location used in the film, and the cast consists of five people; the three aforementioned, as well as Emma Graves who plays Maddie’s sister Max who is seen via web camera, and Sarah’s husband, John, portrayed by Michael Trucco (Battlestar Galactica).
Maddie, who is unaware that she is in real peril, busies herself with attempting to write the conclusion to her latest novel. She is also avoiding face-time phone calls from her ex-boyfriend. During a web cam communication with Max, her sister spots something that moves behind Maddie. When Max inquires about it, Maddie dismisses it, letting Max know that it is just her cat, but viewers are aware that the killer is inside the house. The killer knows that Maddie is unaware of his presence, and that he can end her life with very little effort, but he decides, that first, he wants to mess with her psyche. The killer takes Maddie’s cell phone, and begins sending her pictures while she is working on her laptop. Maddie, will soon find out, who is taking the snapshots, when the killer appears in front of the sliding glass door, where as mentioned earlier, he removes his mask. After doing so, he asks Maddie if she can read lips. When she responds ‘yes’, by shaking her head, he informs her of his intentions, and a deadly game of cat and mouse commences.
Will Maddie survive the horrifying ordeal she finds herself in? Has the killer underestimated Maddie because of her disability? If he did underestimate her ability to fight back, does it lead to his own demise? What possible plan can Maddie devise to thwart a killer who can hear her every movement, and knows when she might be trying to escape, or go on the attack?
“Hush” premiered at the South by Southwest Film Festival on March 12, 2016, and at the moment, can only be viewed on Netflix. The film was directed by Mike Flanagan (Absentia), who co-wrote the screenplay with lead actress, and his spouse, Kate Siegel. The couple were interested in making a home invasion movie, but they didn’t want it to be a standard offering that has been seen numerous times. After coming up with the idea for the struggle for survival that would take place between Maddie and the Killer, the creative team would role-play each of the scenes in their home before adding a particular scene to the script. They did this in order to attempt to make Maddie’s character’s reactions as realistic as possible.
Credit must be given to the cinematography of James Kniest (The Last Witch Hunter), which captures the seemingly hopeless situation Maddie finds herself in due to the isolation of her house. The prospect of escape, especially after the killer slashes the tire on her car, doesn’t seem to be a viable option. The sound in the film, or lack thereof, during certain scenes, in essence takes on the role of an additional cast member. Furthermore, the music, composed by The Newton Brothers (Urge), effectively helps to advance the narrative. While the film does contain gore, it is not depended on to carry the movie to its conclusion. What might at first sound like a gimmicky concept, is not, in my opinion. The fact that Maddie’s character can’t hear or speak, I felt, only helped to elevate the tension, and she makes for a realistic heroine. I don’t want to get into too much more. The less that is known about how things unfold from the point where Maddie and the killer learn of each other, the better it is for those of you who have not seen the film.