Hush is an example of bringing something unique and fresh to a well-worn concept. Hush is a home-invasion horror. A man is trying to break into a house to kill the lone woman inside. So far, so many other movies but the woman inside the house is a deaf mute.
The description alone doesn’t do this plot device justice. It wouldn’t feel like it changes enough of the plot to matter but in the hands of a good writer and director (Mike Flanagan does both) it changes the feel and dynamic of the story.
For starters, Kate Siegal’s Maddie does not hear the cries of the first victim, banging on the window and trying to get her oblivious friend’s attention. It makes her death in the foreground of the scene while deaf Maddie cleans in the background so much more terrifying and desperate, invoking memories of Drew Barrymore’s death in the opening of Scream.
Once the first death happens and Maddie realises she is being terrorised, the next problem becomes apparent: How do stop a person you can’t hear? How do scream for help when you can’t speak? Having to rely on keeping your killer in-sight and knowing their movements at all times is a different way to avoid the danger when most could hide, waiting for the sound of impending doom.
This is just the first of the clever ways the plot device of deafness is used in the story. To comment on anymore would spoil the ingenuity of the story and the unique way it uses this character trait to both scare and empower the main character. The deafness isn’t the only element which the character uses and luckily Siegal’s Maddie is well-written. Elements of her personality are teased early in the film and come into play for the finale while insignificant events have a way of becoming important that experienced audiences could guess but still feel satisfied by.
Plot devices and story elements are only as good as the characters within them and Hush is a film with a handful of players. The other principal character is the killer himself and this creepy, menacing and relentless performance is delivered excellently by 10 Cloverfield Lane’s John Gallagher Jr. The way he introduces himself, tapping on the window, quietly stalking Maddie and using her disability against her, makes for a much more scary experience but one which has a great pay-off as Maddie tries to turn the tables in her favour.
With the deafness being such a unique story element, it is such a shame that the movie falls back on familiar formula tropes. There are times when you will feel like screaming at the TV at some of the decisions the characters make or have to ask yourself why characters do (or more specifically don’t do) certain things. Maddie’s disability will definitely draw some questions in the audience, especially when being mute would make calling the police difficult, that can distract.
Overall, Hush is a familiar story and horror movie staple done in a different and unique way. The characters are well-written and the performances match the story. There are times when the movie feels frustratingly familiar but luckily the performances and the character trait which drives the story plasters over the cracks.
Rating – 4
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