I wanted to like Mike Flanagan’s Hush. Really, I did. I went into it with an open mind. The concept sounded great: a deaf woman being terrorized in her own remote home by a nameless, faceless killer lacking motivation. Promising premise. Without big-name actors to ascribe qualities to the lead characters, this left the possibilities wide open: I’d be able to see characters as opposed to actors, which is always a great experience. And yet I found that this one staggered, though not by means of performance. Nope, this one hot bungled by execuition. As much as it pains me, I’m going to claim my personal label of choppy waters here, if only because I really wanted to like it and found some elements good, but the overall impact was a film that just plain bored me.
|Not my cup of tea.
Hush has a premise that’s intriguing: a woman that can’t hear attempts to fend off a killer in a nasty home invasion. You have to admit, the last time this was done was Wait Until Dark, which left our heroine with her hearing intact while robbing her of her sight. While blindness is nothing to sniff at, being able to hear – especially if you’re in the dark – is a huge ability to have: every step, every tiny sound. Think about it: how many times does a snapped twig or a footfall give away the location of the killer? So when you take that away, it forces the person in question to rely on other senses, and we get to realize that how much we rely upon our own sense of sound. It makes an interesting case within the first few minutes of the film, as we’re treated to the sounds we take for granted: food cooking, instant messenger notifications, a cat meowing. All the little incidental sounds were cut off suddenly, throwing them into stark contrast. Great technique. Add to that the performance of John Gallagher Jr. as the namless Man stalking our heroine Maddie (Kate Siegel) with photos and lip-reading, and it was delightfully creepy while adding some realism.
Unfortunately, I had some issues with this. While it was a nice touch to throw in the dating issues of the hearing impaired, I found that Maddie’s other senses weren’t heightened the way that other deaf folks’ senses are. I’m not trying to say that everyone is equal in this respect, but have you ever tried putting something past a deaf person? It’s fucking tricky. Their senses of sight and touch, particularly vibration, are incredible, and they translate these into a spot-on perception that someone else is with them. Considering that we were whacked over the head with the fact that this woman has been deaf since she was 13, it’s hard to think that she can live on her own without that heightened sense ability kicking in. So when Sarah (Samantha Sloyan) is banging on the front door and screaming, well, I think Maddie would have noticed. The vibrations alone would have gotten her attention. Likewise, someone sneaking up on her like the Man did in the bathroom would have been picked up immediately. For me, it felt like convenient writing.
|Should have been sharper.
I had a point on the wishlist for this film as well: the intermittent use of sound. This spans a few different issues. At first, we had the sound turned on. Then off, to get Maddie’s perspective. Then back on. Then off. Then buzzing. Then humming. I wanted to yell, “Make up your mind, Flanagan!” at several points. We were rither in Maddie’s head, or we weren’t. How much better would this film have been if it had been done in silence? If we got to truly experience the world the way that Maddie did? Think about that one for a minute. No sound. Just visuals. Example: when The Man scrapes the knife against the glass door, we hear the grating sound, but it doesn’t matter for Maddie because she can’t hear it. It’s meant for us, not for her, and that’s not very scary. It was a moment of fourth wall winking, which was obnoxious. We see everything she does, but she can’t hear everything that we do. To flip this, how fucking scary would stripping the sound have been for us? How much of an improvement? The pure terror of communication, the reveals of the photos and The Man’s face. I think it had the potential to go an original route and make a statement. It had the chance to make us Maddie. It had the chance to make us connect with her. And it didn’t take it.
Instead, we got stuck with that god awful score. I try to be constructive, and I think I’m about to fail here. The music was, shall we say, inappropriate at times. The uplifting music during the big fight scene at the end? Really? No. No, no, no. No. Nope. This isn’t a Lifetime movie starring Meredith Baxter-Birney. Tori Spelling is not asking her mother if she can sleep with danger. Judith Light isn’t poisoning anyone. So why in the hell would you go the route of a bad t.v. movie for your score? While we’re at it, why didn’t we just use Craig Wedren’s “Higher and Higher” from Wet Hot American Summer? Because the impact made the scene a complete fucking joke. The music killed my horror show lady boner.
I tried. I tried really hard to like this one. It had potential. It had a strong start. But as more time wore on, I found myself feeling more and more bored. When I’m looking at the clock and wondering how much longer we have to go, that’s a bad sign. So while not a total wash, it made me sad. Hush could have been so much more. I get that it’s a darling of top ten lists. Thankfully, we’re only in April and we still have 8 months to displace it. There has to be something better than this.