In a year of abusively bad pieces, 2016 has offered some horror treats. That hardly justifies the year we’ve had to suffer through at the cinemas but at least it’s something. When you’re desperate enough, you’ll accept any respite.
Over the last few years as a film critic, I’ve gained an appreciation for the horror genre that I initially did not have, mostly because it is quite easy to stereotype the horror genre as a found footage, directionless and sometimes gory, sometimes plain uninteresting behemoth. Horror is the niche that has struggled the most in film as of late. There’s no John Carpenter or George Romero to keep it afloat, but that is not to say that the horror table is vacant. There have been some successes, though not nearly as many as there should have been.
With all that said, most of the highlights of 2016 cinema have come from this dish and they’ve tasted fairly well, too. The Witch, 10 Cloverfield Lane, The Conjuring 2 and Don’t Breathe were all noteworthy and thus far all have a legitimate case to make the top ten best films of the year. Last I checked, 10 Cloverfield Lane still breaks my top five.
All of this goes to say that Hush should not have been a surprise to me. I should have expected more but I’ll be blunt when I say the horror genre has instilled some false hope in me more than a fair share of times, as has every other genre. I try to stint my anticipation to protect myself from disappointment.
Hush comes from the same vein as Don’t Breathe. It plays to our eyes, not to our ears. Our eyes show us a mute and deaf author alone in the woods. A killer on the loose becomes infatuated with her disabilities. Her helplessness intrigues him and he keeps her alive like a bird in a cage.
Maddie, our main character, lives in her own bubble, seemingly oblivious to the world around her. Unable to perceive sound or communicate with her voice, Maddie seems as pitiful as a lost puppy to both the killer and us as an audience. The killer can do all he wants whenever he wants. Maddie is completely incapable in this situation. These specific circumstances allow for a more complicated scenario and ambidextrous villain.
For one, our point of view in horror movies is normally skewed by all of the stupidity surrounding our character. Yes, living by yourself is dumb, especially when you’re disabled, but this loss of control can happen in any setting. The ability to choose is slowly tugged away from you like a thread pulled through a weave. We are paralyzed, unable to act.
Second, this murderer doesn’t want to kill Maddie, at least not right away. We see it early on as he slowly paces around the house allowing her to lock all the doors. He is stunned how clueless Maddie is. He loses interest in his first victim because of how distant and disconnected Maddie is. She is completely alone both in location and as a person and this second tidbit is probably what drives the killer to toy with her the most. He is alone, too. Where he has grown strong in his individuality, Maddie appears directionless and what’s worse, doesn’t have a compass. Our killer is both a psychopath and a man with some sense of value. He thinks so little of Maddie that he feels she isn’t even worthy of death. Instead, he cages her.
This is simple and developed all at once, a preliminary sketch and a developed blueprint. This conundrum is what I find most fascinating about Hush.
Director Mike Flanagan made headlines for his 2013 picture, Oculus. I have yet to see it but I’m certainly more likely to view it now. While I have no plans to see Ouija: Origin of Evil, that is Flanagan’s newest project. He may become one of the genre’s gargoyles.
It’s that Hush manages to accomplish so much with so little that attracts my attention as well. Few characters, small budget and none of it matters. They are numbers. This film isn’t about numbers. It’s about quality. Flanagan’s studious with his pen and perhaps more so with his director’s chair. It’s a mostly silent ride but one that you leave talking about.
Once again, if you’re new to my blog, I’ve always ranked movies on a scale of 0-100 (I don’t know why, I just always have). Here’s the grading scale.
80-89 It was a pretty good movie and definitely one worth seeing, but it doesn’t quite scratch my top ten percentile. (Olympus Has Fallen, The Cable Guy, The Cabin in the Woods, Tears of the Sun, Edge of Tomorrow)
50-59 This movie isn’t intolerable but it’s not blowing my mind either. I’m trying really hard to get some sort of enjoyment out of this. (Underworld, The Do-Over, X-Men: Apocalypse, D-Tox/Eye See You, Constantine)
40-49 This movie is just mediocre. It’s not doing anything other than the bare minimal, so morbidly boring that sometimes I’m actually angry I watched this. (Underworld: Evolution, Batman & Robin, Bloodsport, War, The Ridiculous 6)
30-39 Definitely worse than mediocre, the 30′s ironically define the 1930′s, full of depression, lack of accomplishments, poverty and just so dumb. (Independence Day: Resurgence, The Crow: City of Angels, Centurion, Planet of the Apes, Stonados)
0-19 Watching this movie resulted in one or more of the following: seizure, loss of brain cells, falling asleep/unconsciousness, feel you wasted your time/day, accomplished nothing for you, left the movie knowing less about it then you did going into it, constantly asking yourself why you came to see this movie, or near-death experience. In short, staring at a wall was just as entertaining as watching this movie. This movie deserved a sticker or a label that said, “WARNING: EXTREME AMOUNT OF SUCKAGE.” (The Coed and the Zombie Stoner, The Forbidden Dimensions, Cyborg, Outcast, Sabotage)
My score for Hush: 75.
Hush thrills while leaving you short of breath at points. Like with Don’t Breathe, you can’t breathe. You can’t make a sound. You, like Maddie, can’t hear. All you can do is see and what Hush manages to offer is quite impressive.