Independent horror films often premiere at festivals where insiders and special guests have the opportunity to see them and generate buzz. After that, it could be months (or even years) before the general public gets a chance to view these new movies.
With Hush, the latest from Oculus director Mike Flanagan, we have the opportunity to view the film on Netflix less than one month after its world premiere at SXSW. Some have questioned why the film went to Netflix first without a theatrical run, but as a consumer and fan, I’m not complaining. Although this film would be extremely enjoyable in a theatrical setting where it could be enjoyed with an audience, this is the quickest and most convenient method to view new horror releases.
Sunday night, we had the pleasure of viewing one of the best horror thrillers we’ve seen, and here are 5 reasons you should watch it too.
1. A new concept that delivers unexpected results.
When I first heard the concept for Hush, I wondered if it would deliver or come across as gimmicky. The central character, Maddie, is a deaf woman who lost her hearing at the age of 13. In the film, she must take her perceived handicap and use it to her advantage to gain an edge and attempt to overcome an external threat. Much like Wait Until Dark, the character has the opportunity to turn the situation on its head in order to outsmart and potentially defeat her attacker. In an excellent interview with the film’s director Mike Flanagan conducted by William Bibbiani on Blumhouse.com, Flanagan notes that in a quick “elevator pitch” the movies share a similar theme:
“…it’s interesting because I think the elevator pitches for those movies can be very similar, because they’re dealing with a protagonist who has a perceived disability that is revealed to be a strength. In that case blindness, up against – in the case of that movie [WAIT UNTIL DARK] it’s actually more than one person – but up against an external threat that you immediately think, “She’s doomed.” And then what happens throughout the cat and mouse of it is that by the end, that perceived handicap is actually revealed to be a strength. I like to think the similarities between the two movies fade away after you get past the elevator pitch because structurally and the in the details the movies are very, very different. But it’s such a clean set-up. When we talk about ‘high concept,’ that is so clean and so simple.”
–Mike Flanagan via Blumhouse.com
Fortunately, this character device pays off with unexpected and exciting results. You can’t wait to see how she’s going to deal with this terrifying situation, and the stakes are high from the start.
2. The sound design.
The best horror films are ones that indulge your senses and immerse you in the world of the characters. In an interview with horror master Wes Craven, he talks about the value of inserting atmospheric sounds to fully create the environment of the film. An avid bird watcher, Craven was known for using the sounds of native birds and wildlife in the soundscapes for his movies. This element is often overlooked but adds a distinct level of realism to the setting.
The film uses atmospheric sound effects with focused precision. More intriguing though is when the director chooses to mute out the environmental sounds, forcing us to step inside the head of the character. The juxtaposition of what the character can hear and see and what the audience is witnessing creates high dramatic tension that has you on the edge of your seat.
3. Likable characters.
Maddie, played by Kate Siegel, is a relatable and realistic character that you know has the intelligence and strength to overcome extreme obstacles. She’s a talented writer. She’s adapted to a life altering setback. For the most part, she’s alone and isolated from her friends and family. Yet, you don’t pity her.
Siegel plays the role with such ease and charm, conveying deep and complex emotions using only her eyes and gestures. Though she’s likable, she’s not soft. You know she’s a fighter. She’s capable of mustering all her courage and skills to take on whatever befalls her. That’s a protagonist you can root for.
Rounding out the cast is Samantha Sloyan and Michael Trucco who play the world’s best neighbors. Their characters are taking signing classes together in order to better communicate with their isolated friend, and Sloyan’s character has just finished reading Maddie’s book. It makes you wish your neighbors were as friendly and kind.
4. A brutal villain with a mask you can’t forget.
Unlike the other characters, the masked intruder (played by the unrecognizable John Gallagher Jr.) is an unsympathetic and hostile force you immediately despise. His actions are unapologetically savage, and you can’t help but cheer when he’s caught off guard. He’s toying with Maddie, but there’s also a sense that he craves acknowledgment and validation. During an intense scene, Maddie turns the tables by closing a door and actively ignoring her attacker. Containing her fear and turning her back on him, his power is instantly yanked away, making him even more aggressive as he desperately fights for attention.
I’m a huge fan of slashers, home invasion horror, and masked stalkers. The mask can make or break a villain. The mask in this movie is striking with it’s pale glow, blank features, and slight grin at the mouth. Because it is such a great mask, I wish it had been kept on for more of the film. Once the mask is removed, the attacker instantly becomes more human and less threatening. Although the reasoning behind this decision and the scene in which it takes place is a vital element to increase the threat level and provides insight into the character’s lack of concern for anonymity.
5. Rising stakes that build to an intense climax.
With each scene, Maddie is aware that there are infinite choices she can make, all with impossibly dire outcomes. As a writer, Maddie is plagued by the inability to choose a proper ending to her stories. She thinks through every possible scenario and knows there are consequences to any incorrect decisions. Eventually she’s pushed to the point where she has to take action even if she can’t foresee the endgame. Watching her reach this moment of self discovery is the ultimate triumph, turning her from a vulnerable victim into a heroic fighter.
Have you seen Hush? Leave your thoughts and opinions with us below!
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Below is the trailer for Hush, although I highly recommend you avoid watching it before seeing the film for the first time.