Netflix UK film review: Hush
Unique Selling Point9
Decision to premiere on Netflix7
Ian Loring | On 10, Apr 2016Reading time: 3 mins
Director: Mike Flanagan
Cast: Kate Siegel, John Gallagher Jr.
Watch Hugh online in the UK: Netflix
Mike Flanagan has set himself out as one of the more interesting voices in horror over the last few years. His debut, Absentia, was a surreal and unsettling picture, which impressively got chills, despite a large portion of the scares coming from a walkway underneath a road on a sunny day. His Karen Gillan-starring mainstream release Oculus told a darkly comic tale of a mirror that makes people have very bad days, which ended with quite the twist. Now, he’s teamed up with horror impresario Jason Blum to make a film, which, on the face of it, could have just been a technical exercise, but in its worldwide Netflix debut, finds a good home for a stripped-down thriller about having to find inner power to overcome physical limitations.
The film’s USP, that lead (and co-writer) Kate Siegel plays a deaf and mute woman alone in a house in the woods who has to battle a crazed killer, is its most interesting aspect, but it’s the way Flanagan evokes this that captures your attention. Sound design here is sparse, with music only really kicking in during action sequences. Instead, a mobile phone ringing or a knife tapping at a window is played out in isolation, as Siegel’s Maddie acts oblivious to it.
The tension in knowing more than the characters we watch in a horror movie is vital in the build-up to a scene of violence and the extra significance given to the sounds here makes it even more so; Flanagan’s refreshing insistence on not using loud-noise jump-scares makes sense both in the world of the film – the character wouldn’t be alerted by them – and in having to crank up the suspense more creatively.
This isn’t to say that the film is a complete revelation, however. A decision involving the identity of the killer is something you don’t see all that often, but John Gallagher Jr just isn’t threatening enough and actually becomes less so, as we spend an increasing amount of time with him. It’s also fair to say that the narrative does little new beyond the set-up – Maddie’s arc of having to find inner strength is given more significance by her disabilities, but it’s a fairly generic progression and the busy work the story has in stretching out to an 80-minute runtime is fairly ‘been there, done that’ stuff, although there’s some impressive gore on show.
Premiering on Netflix is likely the best thing for Hush and should provide a superior experience to watching it in a cinema with a large group of people. It is a fairly cinematic film and is more worthy of a mainstream release than a lot of big-screen horror, but the smaller screen and watching in a home will help with the feeling of helplessness and paranoia which is trying to be evoked here, especially in the film’s earlier moments.
Hush is perfectly acceptable horror for a Friday night, but perhaps little more than that. Flanagan’s depiction of the world of his lead gives it a step above most other direct-to-small screen fare but it’s not a film which will be much remembered in years hence.
Hush is available on Netflix UK, as part of an £8.99 monthly subscription.