The Story: A deaf/mute author is stalked in her rural home by a killer.
Expectations: The synopsis reminded me of two often-overlooked horror films, WAIT UNTIL DARK (1967) and EYES OF A STRANGER (1981), that feature blind heroines. Both movies are a cut above the usual stalk-and-slash thriller. I figured that if HUSH could approximate the terror of those films, it would be worthwhile.
Raising my expectations: HUSH is directed by Mike Flanagan, arguably the most successful horror filmmaker of the moment. Flanagan—who writes, directs and edits his films—intrigued horror fans with the ultra-low-budget ABSENTIA (2011), then went on to make the Blumhouse blockbuster OCULUS (2013). This year, he has followed up with three new films: HUSH; BEFORE I WAKE (now in theaters); and the forthcoming OUIJA sequel. On top of that, he’s attached to several high-profile projects in development, including a remake of I KNOW WHAT YOU DID LAST SUMMER and an adaptation of Stephen King’s novel GERALD’S GAME. For a while, he was also rumored to be “in talks” to direct the Blumhouse remake of HALLOWEEN, but he now claims he’s not involved. Whatever the case, he’s obviously a filmmaker worth watching.
Reaction: HUSH is a smart, streamlined thriller that does what it sets out to do. It feels very real because it revolves around a likeable “final girl” (played by newcomer Kate Siegel). Flanagan presents her as a writer who hears literal voices in her head—a compelling detail that sets up one a good twist in the final act. And the way he treats the novelist's world of imagination gives me confidence that Flanagan can make GERALD’S GAME work, if he wants to.
In addition to Stephen King, HUSH reminds me of another major master of horror. While watching, I couldn’t help thinking that the film was like an 80-minuteversion of the opening scene in SCREAM. (Even the title of the film seems to encourage the comparison.) HUSH has the visceral quality that Craven brought to so many of his films—something I have only seen recently in Nick Simon’s THE GIRL IN THE PHOTOGRAPHS. Simon's film has Craven’s sardonic sense of humor, which makes THE GIRL IN THE PHOTOGRAPHS resonate emotionally in a way that HUSH doesn’t… but perhaps that was inevitable because HUSH is such a streamlined narrative. If it’s not the prologue from SCREAM, it’s the third act—just the third act—of most horror movies. It hits the ground running and never really pauses to catch its breath. As a straightforward thriller, it’s aces.
Most Nightmare-Worthy Moment: As you might imagine, in a story like this, sound design plays a significant role. And it’s the sound of fingers breaking that made me cringe.