Movie Review - Hush (2016)

The Strangers (2008) was the last horror film I tolerated with as little depth as this one, which in essence is just a cheap knock-off of John Carpenter's Halloween (1978). It attempts a similar gimmick as Wait Until Dark (1967) with Audrey Hepburn or See No Evil (1971), but it does so with absolutely no flair or style that is effective or worthwhile. It's basically a low-rent, John Carpenter slasher with some sadistic and ironic commentary à la Scream (1996) and Saw (2004), except this film is nowhere near as clever, inventive or fun. For director Mike Flanagan, it's a total step-down from his supernatural psycho-thriller Oculus (2014).

Kate Siegel (Steam) stars as Maddie Young, an author who went deaf at age 13 from meningitis. She's currently working on her next book in a secluded home deep in the woods. Her friend and neighbor, Sarah, played by Samantha Sloyan, is learning sign language. Her sister, Max, played by Emma Graves, calls her on her laptop using FaceTime. She also has a couple of men in her life, John, played by Michael Trucco, and Craig, played by an uncredited black actor.

Things get scary when a man in a white, featureless mask shows up at her door, terrorizes her and attempts to kill her. This unnamed man is played by John Gallagher, Jr. (Short Term 12 and 10 Cloverfield Lane). Unfortunately, this unidentified man reveals his face but not his name. It's unfortunate not because it spoils any mystery but because it doesn't. Unlike any of the aforementioned, horror films, Flanagan doesn't provide any history or back-story for the unnamed killer.

The Strangers didn't provide any history or back-story for its killers either, but it wisely didn't un-mask its killers. If Flanagan felt no need to give us motives or motivations for his villain, then un-masking him was unnecessary. Doing so invites curiosity about his motivations that go unanswered, which only frustrate at the end and bore in the middle, and that's the movie's chief failing. It's ultimately boring.

Unlike Flanagan's Oculus, it's also not smart or interesting. His protagonist is deaf, and he attempts to do something with that but it falls flat. The Ukrainian film The Tribe also had its protagonists be deaf. That film made a choice about utilizing that deafness. It wasn't a choice with which I agreed, but at least it was a choice that was consistent. The choices here aren't consistent. It's instead all over the map.

Like The Artist, I almost wish the entire film had been silent, absolutely no sound. The movie has subtitles, but the subtitles are for the sign language. The only conveyance of words should have been that way. It would have been better if the soundtrack were desolate if not totally empty. As it stands, its use of sounds don't add much to the thrills or suspense. Its use of sounds don't do much that other horror films haven't done.

We're never really put in Maddie's point-of-view, at least not consistently. A better example is the episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer titled "Hush" in the fourth season of that series. Joss Whedon, the writer and director of that episode, had much more clever ideas and better executions of those ideas than this.

This movie premiered at the South By Southwest Festival this year. Netflix acquired it and made it available to stream on April 8th. It's a Blumhouse production, and is one of its worst offerings.

One Star out of Five.
Not Rated but contains brutal, bloody violence.
Running Time: 1 hr. and 21 mins.


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