Review: HUSH (2016) | Casey's Movie Mania | Movie Reviews, Features & Others

Saturday, 9 April 2016

Review: HUSH (2016)

Maddie Young (Kate Siegel) is an author who has been deaf and mute since the age of 13 due to meningitis. She lives alone in a house deep in the woods and her physical human interaction so far is her neighbour named Sarah (Samantha Sloyan). One night while she is struggling with a writer's block on her second novel, a masked stranger (John Gallagher Jr.) turns up in front of her house. Instead of killing her immediately, he begins to toy with her in an elaborate cat-and-mouse game.

REVIEW: A lone female protagonist. A psychotic killer. A single setting. These three elements alone are often seen in countless thrillers and as we all know, such premise has already been done to death. Yet in HUSH, writer and director Mike Flanagan don't even bother to reinvent the genre. Instead, the entire setup is as straightforward as an arrow shot from the masked stranger's crossbow.

Despite the familiarity of the genre, HUSH is far from an uninspired thriller. In fact, the movie's stripped-to-the-essential approach works surprisingly work well to its advantage. Flanagan and Kate Siegel, who also co-scripted the screenplay, doesn't waste much time setting up the story. Everything from the introduction of the main character to her personal and professional matters is addressed in an economical manner without the need of using a slow-burn approach. By the time the masked stranger finally enters the picture, the movie rarely flags as Flanagan's no-frills direction keeps the tension tight and the suspense gripping enough to make you glued to your seat.

As the deaf-mute protagonist who is trapped in the house and completely on her own to defend herself against the stranger, it's difficult not to root and sympathise for Kate Siegel's vulnerable yet level-headed character. If that's not enough, there's a unique angle where she made good use of her author's skill (she writes thriller anyway) to imagine a number of possibilities to overcome her difficult situation and survive the night. John Gallagher Jr., who currently can be seen in 10 CLOVERFIELD LANE, plays the unnamed killer role to a sadistic perfection. Best of all, Flanagan and Siegel doesn't bore us with a long-winded motivation or even explaining a backstory on why he is so determined to stalk Maddie. No doubt the ambiguous nature of his existence makes him scarier.

On the technical front, Flanagan and cinematographer James Kniest know well how to turn a single location of a house into a tension-filled visual playground. Flanagan also doesn't rely on creative gore and violence to keep the viewers interested. He understands that the subtle mix of graphic and psychological intensity alone is more than enough to fulfil the genre requirement. This is especially evident even for a violent moment as common as a victim getting stabbed in the stomach multiple times, Flanagan manages to make the scene looks painful and remarkably intense.

Save for certain scenes that make you question the implausibility, such as the one takes place in the bathroom, HUSH is a solid yet effective little thriller deserved to be seen by genre fans. What's more, this movie also proves that Flanagan can craft a grounded thriller without relying on the supernatural element (e.g. OCULUS, BEFORE I WAKE) for a change.

A strong female protagonist and a taut, yet know-how direction elevate this otherwise well-worn home invasion thriller.

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