The slasher flick is what many first think of when horror films are mentioned. It is also the basest, most limited, and dull subgenre in horror, thus making it the easiest to produce.
Hush is a home invasion slasher flick. Its gimmick is Katie Siegel’s protagonist Maddie is a deaf-mute writer living alone. However, the film moves beyond its rather limiting subgenre. So what makes Hush stand out is not its premise (which I admit is legitimately intriguing) but how it paces itself and works within its limits to maximize suspense leading to genuine fear.
The opening sequence gives viewers an enhanced, tactile sense of sound which is then removed to deepen our sense of Maddie’s disconnect from what we, the hearing and vocal, experience. The move is at once unsettling and grounding setting the tone, if you will, for the entire film.
There is time taken to flesh out Maddie as a character giving viewers the tools and references which will be especially useful to understand and enjoy the film’s ending. Rarely is this done well or even at all in standard home invasion/slasher flicks. Also, the film manages to avoid being ableist (although, it still has some issues) by embracing the ordinary way Maddie goes about living her life. So, when we are suddenly confronted with the violence of the film we are jarred not just by the abruptness but by having a world we’ve acclimated to shattered from the outside.
The invader in Hush is only identified as ‘the man’ and we are given absolutely no reason for his appearance, no motivation for his sadism and glee in murder. This ‘random act of violence’ approach effectively prods the audience into anxiety while needling an obscure and highly unlikely fear. The Man toys with Maddie refusing to break into her home but refusing to let her escape making the film a bottle-episode writ large: “I can come in anytime I want. And I can get you, anytime I want. But I’m not going to. Not until it’s time. When you wish you’re dead… that’s when I’ll come inside.” However, Maddie isn’t a damsel, and she does an admirable and believable job of thinking her way through her dilemma.
The direction and acting dovetail wonderfully making nearly every scene deeply effective. Also, at barely 80 minutes, the film’s pace is quick with all extraneous and potentially distracting nonsense avoided.
A stylized, frenetic story instilling a terror that will linger long after viewing.