“What’s ASL for yippee ki-yay?”

hushThere’s one moment here, where the heroine leaves a final message, certain she’s going to die, that’s poignant to a surprising degree, not often seen in the genre. It’s the moment I really bought into this, which was made for a mere $70,000, and is a very nicely assembled machine for creating tension. Deaf author Maddie Young (Siegel) has moved to a house in the middle of nowhere to try and finish her second novel. But one night, the peace and quiet is interrupted the arrival of a masked man (Gallagher), whose intent is clear, even if his reasons remain obscure: the terrorising, and eventual murder, of Maddie. Cut off from all outside assistance, and after all efforts to escape have proved futile, she eventually realizes there is only one way to survive.

Equal parts Stephen King and Wait Until Dark, the Audrey Hepburn film in which a blind woman is similarly the target, this is an object lesson in doing the most with what you have. A cast numbering only a handful and a single location, are not necessarily a barrier to entertaining and effective cinema. The first section is very much a careful build-up: set the central character in her location, establish her strengths (imagination, self-reliance) and vulnerabilities (obvious). Then, unleash the threat, triggering an escalating series of cat-and-mouse incidents, bringing your heroine to the point of desperation mentioned above. Finally? It’s likely no spoiler to say, the tables get turned – but the less detail I provide there, the more you’ll be able to appreciate it.

If you’re wondering why this stalk ‘n’ slasher is here, consider this quote from Siegel: “We do credit Wait Until Dark for being the driving force, but we always thought this movie is more like Die Hard; we wanted to beat Maddie up, we wanted her to use the whole space. We just think Die Hard is a perfect movie, and I’ve always wanted to be that kind of action hero. One of my all-time career goals is to be Ripley in the next remake of Aliens!” Having watched the film, much of the above makes sense. It’s certainly a punishingly physical role, though since she also co-wrote the script with the director, she has no-one but herself to blame [they’re now married, so it clearly wasn’t too distressing…]

While obviously operating on a much smaller scale, much of it works almost as well, though the absence of any motive for the attacker is a little bit of a cop-out. Even something simple, as in The Strangers (“Because you were home”), might have been better. There’s also one moment where it felt like our deaf heroine reacted when her phone rang, which seemed odd. But the positives here easily outweigh any complaints, with Maddie a great heroine, who refuses to be defined by her disability – even if it puts her at a significant disadvantage in this situation. It’s also an experience thoroughly grounded in reality, where things might play out like this, given the scenario. And if you were considering moving to the country, Hush will probably make you think again.

Dir: Mike Flanagan
Star: Kate Siegel, John Gallagher Jr.

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