Hush (2016)

It’s rare for a movie to feature a protagonist that has a disability. It’s even rarer for a movie to take that disability seriously and not as a way to mock or demonize someone afflicted by it. In the case of Hush, our protagonist is both deaf and mute. She can read lips but communicates with sign language. She’s also about to have her home invaded. Is that scary? Yeah, it is. The disability adds to the horror—but it’s never treated as a joke. It’s integral to the plot and to the plan of our villain.

But let’s back up for a second. Our lead is Maddie (Kate Siegel), an author who lives in a secluded home. She’s got a couple of semi-close neighbors, but primarily part prefers isolation. Late one night, a masked man (John Gallagher Jr.) is seen outside her house—not by her, but by us. He soon sends her pictures, proving he’s there. He’s going to stalk her, make her wish for her death, and then he’s going to kill her. And she can’t hear him coming. If that isn’t a good twist on the generic home invasion story, then I don’t know what is.

What follows from here is fun and tense and thrilling and scary but not revolutionary. It’s a pretty standard home invasion movie, big change notwithstanding, but it’s a good version of it. Thanks to our protagonist, there’s very little dialogue, and that makes us focus far more heavily on individual sounds, some of which matter but many of which do not. But each creak ramps up the tension. Hush generates a superb atmosphere. That’s almost enough to carry it. Atmosphere, and not jump startles, rule the day.

Credit goes first and foremost to director Mike Flanagan, who has become a name to watch in the horror genre. He knows how to craft tense scenes, many of which don’t need to startle the audience to get our hearts racing. Kate Siegel, the lead, is also a co-writer along with Flanagan. Interestingly, the two married just a couple of months before the release of the film. Hopefully they’ll continue to make movies together in the future; they prove a formidable team.

Hush is a solid home invasion movie with an interesting protagonist.

Siegel also showcases some strong acting chops, having to communicate without dialogue for the entirety of the film while also convincing us that she can’t hear anything. If you didn’t know any better going in, you’d assume she really was deaf. It’s not the most emotional of performances—although you get some of that, too—in large part because the film doesn’t give her the greatest character, but it’s an extremely effective job. The supporting cast members are all fine, but nobody stands out except for Siegel.

Hush also manages to, at least in part, justify something that far too many horror movies do but do for little reason, which is having a character do something only for the benefit of the audience. The villain here explicitly tells Maddie that he’s going to stalk and scare her, so at least all of his background creeping and whatnot is justified within the film. So often these movies have their characters do things that the people whom they’re trying to scare/kill don’t even get to see. Or, when they do see, since the goal is to kill, scaring them doesn’t help to accomplish it. It’s just a pet peeve of mine.

Hush is a solid home invasion movie with an interesting protagonist whose disability is treated seriously and is integral to the story. The scares are good, the atmosphere is great, and while the story and characters, ultimately, are a little bit basic, that’s pretty easily forgiven thanks to how effective the film is at thrilling the audience—all without too many jump startles. Hush is one of the good ones.

Conclusion: Hush is one of the good home invasion movies.

Recommendation: If you have Netflix, you should watch Hush.

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