2016 was filled with great horror movies, from the tension-packed The Invitation to the great Conjuring 2 to the thrilling Don’t Breathe and 10 Cloverfield Lane (yes, I’m counting that). With so much great stuff, you might have missed a smaller gem on Netflix.
It’s Hush, which is a tiny home invasion movie, literally and figuratively. It follows Maddie (Kate Siegel), a deaf author who heads into the woods to write her second novel and get away from the stresses of life. One night, a sadistic man who gets off on slowly killing people decides to terrorize her little neighborhood. He murders her neighbor, and then comes after her.
Maddie locks herself into her small house and the man tries to get in. That’s practically the entire film. There’s Maddie, and then there’s the killer. Director and co-writer Mike Flanagan, who is a great filmmaker who seems to pump out reliable, fun horror films, has a tough task in front of him. How do you keep this conflict tense and horrifying for the entire run time?
It all starts with a challenge. Flanagan had always wanted to make a movie without dialogue, and Siegel had always wanted to explore the idea of someone watching a stranger invade their home. While at a dinner together, and discussing their favorite horror films, the two decided to combine their ideas. Why not make a movie with little dialogue about a home invasion?
Flanagan and Siegel both believe that sound design is the key to a terrifying movie, as most of their favorite parts of horror films are killer sound design. So why not find a way to play with that in the movie? Why not make it a character? This is how Maddie emerged as a deaf-mute character. She can’t hear a thing, so what happens when a killer is trying to get at her?
This ratchets up the tension in Hush a considerable degree. You are terrified for Maddie because you understand that she’s in a situation that is not easy for her. She has to rely on her eyes for information, but what happens when she’s stuck in a dark cabin in the middle of the night in the woods? This also gives the killer an advantage. He doesn’t have to worry about making a noise. A normal guy can suddenly feel like an impossible threat.
In a way, Hush is pure cinema. It’s falling back on the strengths of cinema to give you a great horror film. It’s using sound and visuals and character to really push you through. This movie will give you anxiety, and you will writhe in your seat rooting for Maddie to survive the night.
Think of something like Mad Max: Fury Road, a movie that’s largely based on storyboards rather than a script. That’s kind of what Hush is like, as Flanagan and Siegel had to plan out the movie in their home rather than rely on the words of a script. This gave them trouble when they actually started shooting though, because they couldn’t find a home in Alabama that was similar to theirs.
On top of all this, Hush finds an interesting way to deal with modern technology. The film doesn’t wave off technology by stating that the signal in the forest is bad. Instead, it embraces that smartphones and computers can be used to save people who are running away from murderers. It treats them as a lifesaver.
Hush is a great little horror movie. It’s smart, it’s effective and it will destroy you with anxiety and tension. It’s available to watch on Netflix.
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