Mike Flanagan is one for two in my books. His first big film was Absentia, which was a slow boring mess of a film. Interesting ideas, but nothing much else was going on in the film. His second output was a vast improvement, Oculus. Flanagan showed promise and improvement, which made me interested in seeing what else he had for future projects. Well, he has two films coming out in 2016 and I want to talk about Hush, his take on the home invasion sub-genre.
Home invasion films have been done to death. Some are great (You're Next), some are tolerable (The Strangers) and some are downright terrible (When A Stranger Calls, 2006). So how does one make their home invasion film stand out from the rest? There has to be some twist on the story to make it memorable. You're Next was a great deconstruction of the genre itself and had the heroine be a survival specialist. The twist Hush brings us lies in the fact that our protagonist if completely deaf.
The key element that makes or breaks this film is the sound design. I felt like the crew pulled it off and we have a solid thriller on our hands here. Maddie is a deaf author and she has secluded herself in a house in the woods to write her next book. Problems arise when someone outside her house decides to play a deadly game with Maddie and know she has to keep him out and escape alive. Again, this is a simple premise that is only made interesting by the fact that she is deaf and how the filmmakers decide to handle that aspect of the story.
While the film does inevitably go down routine routes with the story, Flanagan does so with skill and finesse. Multiple times throughout the film we are in Maddie's shoes as Flanagan completely mutes the audio. We see the terror happening behind her, but we cannot hear it. He can be entering the house at any point and we will not know. Flanagan manages to seep the viewer in suspense throughout the whole film and while there are some gory and squeamish scenes, he doesn't rely on them. They feel real and earned. Looking back at the film there are multiple sequences where I was taken back or had a huge grin on my face with the ingenuity of it all.
People will ultimately try to find inconsistencies with how the film handles the deaf aspect. I had maybe one issue myself, but can look past it for the benefit of the enjoyment I ultimately had because of the film. With a small cast of only four people and hardly any dialogue (maybe 15 minutes total?) Hush is a well crafted film that earns a viewing from anyone who likes this genre.
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