Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Hush, Hush, Sweet Spelling

Do you remember Hush, the Gwyneth Paltrow drama about a murderous mother-in-law? What about Hush, the Croatian family drama? Or Hush, the British rip-off of Duel? Or Hush!, the Japanese gay dramedy? Or Hush, the Lifetime movie where someone steals Tori Spelling’s embryos?
All I’m saying is that there’s been a ton of movies called “Hush,” and the only notable one is probably the silent episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. I am happy to announce, though, that the new thriller Hush not only makes you forget about Tori Spelling’s purloined embryos, it more-than-earns its place as one of the most thrilling movies of last year.
I'm already white-knuckling it, and this is just the trailer.

Hush is literally a two-hander, following a deaf woman who communicates through sign language as she’s terrorized by a masked man in the middle of the woods. Like the similarly thrilling Don’t Breathe (which follows a killing machine who happens to be blind), this movie uses the main character’s disability in clever ways. She can’t hear the intruder, or people calling for help, or the loud alarm that distracts the bad guy. Her inability to hear is both a blessing and curse in different parts of the film, and it’s interesting to see the filmmakers play with this.
Ever seen this movie? It's great.
And Hush seems like a nice
wenty-first century update.
Katie Siegal plays Maddie, the deaf woman, in a role she co-wrote with her husband, the film’s director, Mike Flanagan (Ouija: Origin of Evil). She wrote herself one hell of a part, communicating entirely via facial expressions (and sign language early on in the film). It’s wonderful to see a main character this badass, especially a woman, especially a deaf woman. (It should be noted that the actress isn’t deaf, but I wouldn’t dare suggest that the film dropped the ball on its casting. She’s just too good.)
The bad guy is played by wholesome-looking Broadway star John Gallagher Jr., who has come a long way since playing a German schoolboy in Spring Awakening. He’s slight and wiry, but can still look and act intimidating. He’s more terrifying before the unmasking, though, but that’s mainly because blank white masks are such major sources of nightmare fuel.
Watch out for William Shatner.
My biggest praise for the film is how well it uses its cabin-in-the-woods location. Early on, the film sets up every room, and then as the drama unfolds, the characters dash from location to location in a clear, understandable way. So many modern movies have a really muddled sense of place. With Hush, there was never any moment when I was confused about where people were. I understood the layout of the house, which only emphasized the tension.
Honestly, Hush doesn’t reinvent the mousetrap. It’s a very basic thriller with one well-drawn character, another character with zero backstory (obviously intentional), and a game of cat and mouse. It’s very simple. And I think that’s why I liked it so much. Hush hit me on a primal level, which is much more than I can say about Tori Spelling and her damn embryo drama.