I feel like I should have enjoyed “Hush” (2016) more than I did. It isn’t a bad movie — it’s well made, and it stars Kate Siegel, who this year’s exceptional “The Haunting of Hill House” has led me to really like as an actress. (Siegel also co-wrote the film with director Mike Flanagan, who is her husband and who was also the writer and director of “Hill House.”) Siegel is again quite good, and their collaboration here results in a competent, serious horror-drama with no glaring flaws.
Yet my mind wandered. Even if there was nothing seriously wrong with “Hush,” it didn’t much distinguish itself. Just about everything you watch here is a standard stalker-vs.-lone-woman scary movie, with little in the way of twists or unexpected plot developments.
Yes, the difference here is that the protagonist is deaf and mute, and is therefore less able to defend herself — but Siegel and Flanagan don’t capitalize on that much in conceiving this story. By the end of the film, I didn’t get the sense that the character’s disability even affected the course of the story very much. Events would have unfolded more or less the same way if she hadn’t had this disability. (Or am I missing something?) I also get the sense that the protagonist being an author was supposed to affect her choices and strategies in trying to survive, but that didn’t come across consistently or well. (And it results in “tricking” the viewer at one juncture in a way I didn’t like.)
I can’t actually recommend “Hush” to others because it didn’t thrill me. But I can’t objectively say that it’s a bad movie. So I figure I’ll rate it here a 7 out of 10.
A few random observations:
- Siegel is a talented performer. I predict she’s going to go on to great things. Don’t let my lukewarm response to this film dissuade you from catching her elsewhere — especially in “The Haunting of Hill House.”
- The story’s antagonist is fairly generic; he appears to be simply be a random serial killer in the script, and we get hardly a hint about his motivations. But John Gallagher Jr. breathes plenty of life into him with a disturbingly authentic, naturalistic performance. He’s also a very good actor.
- I saw a plot twist coming that didn’t actually occur, and I wonder if what I saw was a vestige of an earlier version of this movie’s script. (And it isn’t a spoiler if it didn’t happen.) During a stalk-and-talk scene in which the bad guy taunts his victim, he inexplicably addresses Siegel’s character as “Squish.” That sounds like a pet name that parent would give to a very young child. The twist I predicted was this — Gallagher’s character was not a serial killer who selected his victims at random, but a long lost, homicidal brother who was then parodying the parent by invoking the pet name. He was motivated by pathological jealousy after growing up with his disabled sister, who he felt monopolized his parents’ attention and sympathies.
- We learn from dialogue that the protagonist became deaf and mute after contracting meningitis when she was a child. I knew that meningitis could make a person deaf (or blind). But … also mute? Why am I skeptical about that? Wouldn’t that only happen if someone became deaf when he or she was a baby — so that the disease could delay key early childhood language-acquisition processes? I have no idea why I am so hung up on this minor bit of exposition. Maybe watching so many zombie or plague movies has made me a stickler for the way diseases are portrayed in a horror story.