As the slasher movie has molded into our pop culture, there are certain norms that have asserted themselves. There is an individual or small group of people in a house. The house is usually secluded. There is a masked killer after them. Very few slasher movies break from that mold. They may have tweaked the sub-genre to a degree, but it usually follows in those same footsteps. Why not? The formula has proven to do well, so why completely break from it?
"Hush" may seem like a gimmick as I describe it. There is a writer named Maddie (Kate Siegel) who down on her luck. If she doesn't get another big writing hit, she may have to abandon her work as a writer for good. So she barricades herself in her house in the woods. No visible neighbors around. Just a house buried in the woods. She plans to spend the quiet evening working on her book. Until she attacked by a masked killer who is ready to up his body count. Oh, and one more thing. Maddie is deaf. There is a moment in ''Hush" where a woman runs to find refuge in Maddie's house. Maddie doesn't hear the woman's screams, and she stabbed to death by the masked killer (John Gallagher Jr.). The masked killer easily drags the body away, looks into Maddie's house, knocks on the glass several times. Nothing.
Like I said, you all probably think "gimmick," but the honest truth is that "Hush" is actually pretty good. What makes it an engaging horror film is that...finally...the characters are smart. All the characters are smart. Maddie is a smart women, and puts up an unexpected fight against her attacker. Which is pretty good for a person who is deaf. This isn't a case of stupid screenwriting, every idea and move Maddie makes is realistic and plausible. This movie doesn't try to cut corners, its told straight, which I appreciated very much. The killer is also very smart though, which rises the stakes quite a bit in the movie. Even when a family friend comes to check on Maddie, he's not the typical read shirt we find in these movies because someone needs to die. Its so refreshing to see a horror movies where human beings actually behave like human beings.
The work done by Kate Siegel should be heavily applauded. Its amazing how she creates a character without the ability to speak. There are subtitles so we can understand her sign language. But she is able to create an entire character based on looks and movements. John Gallagher Jr, who was so good in last month's "10 Cloverfield Lane," does a very good job portraying a snarky adversary. Because he's so well written, Gallagher Jr. is given several prosperous opportunities to really let loose as the character and he genuinely soars. Its hard to make a convincing movie with such a small cast, but this pair of actors makes it look effortless.
The only thing I could have asked for was that it was more scary. There aren't too many things that I would even call mildly eerie. For a movie about a deaf woman, and for a movie that goes out of its way to bring the audience into the main characters point-of-view, it does very little to scare and shock its audience. Heck, I would have given the movie some merit if it had just thrown in a "boo" scare or two. But there is so much good here, that "Hush" is worth your time and attention.
FINAL GRADE: B