Sunday, April 10, 2016

Hush and the Psychologial Torture of Writing: A Film Review

Director: Mike Flanagan.

Writers: Mike Flanagan and Kate Siegel.

Cast: John Gallagher Jr., Kate Siegel and Michael Trucco.

Hush is a stalk-and-slash thriller from writers Mike Flanagan (Oculus) and Kate Siegel. Developed by Intrepid Pictures and Blumhouse Productions, the film recently had its World Premiere at the SXSW Film Festival, in Austin. Now, the film is debuting, via video-on-demand, on Netflix. This smallish indie film makes use of the deaf protagonist, Maggie (Siegel) and a sadistic villain. Their conflict is drawn out as the film's central character does her best to finish her second book, with the use of her imagination. There is a second meta layer, here as Maddie sees much of the film through her mind's eye.

The film is a small production. Much of the film takes place at an isolated cabin. Here, Maddie talks with her neighbour, Sarah (Samantha Sloyan), via sign language. The small budget also minimizes the amount of characters. There are really only two central characters here: Maddie and her unnamed stalker (John Gallagher Jr.). He, strangely, only roams outside of the house, drawing out the eventual fight, for that much longer. In the meantime, Maddie does her best to reach out for help. But, this isolated location prevents others from intervening. The only complexity about this film is its story and use of night shooting. The darkness helps Maddie hide and it also helps keep weather conditions consistent. The story is hiding something of its own. This small thriller, though drawn out, does utilize its singular setting effectively.

The film's boogeyman (actor John Gallagher Jr).

This film viewer sees this feature as a stalk-and-slash feature. In these types of films, the protagonist is often a woman, while the malefactor is almost always male. These features also often introduce a psychopath, or group of psychopaths. These types of killers are only motivated by their victim's psychological torture. For instance, Maddie is weakened over time, by a series of smallish attacks. She is only wounded and not killed. She also prolongs her life with subterfuge. In one scene, she throws a flashlight into the brush, to distract her stalker and find escape. But, all paths lead back into the house for her. Another film example of this type is the 2008 horror feature Eden Lake. Though taking place outside, a female protagonist is hounded and tortured through much of the film, by a group of non-feeling juveniles. Maddie and Jennie's torture becomes your own, until the final bloody conflict is forced onto the screen.

The film appears as a straight-forward home invasion, but there is something else going on here. Much of the film is just a projection of Maddie's imagination. There are a number of hints, within the film and specifically the dialogue, where Maddie discusses her "writer's mind." She develops her writing by seeing her novels as "a film." Thus, the second and third acts are just Maddie working out the ending of her latest, unnamed novel. As further evidence of this, there is a scene where Maddie tries to escape her cabin. Her attacker captures her and bludgeons her with a rock. Then, the scene and the characters disappear as this scenario does not work, for Maddie's book ending. As well, an inner voice can be heard near the twenty minute mark (and much later). It mocks her and her writing abilities. At this point, Maddie turns to her inner workings to complete the book. From here onwards, the film is just an external projection of the protagonist's mind. There is more evidence of this truth, but viewers would be better served in finding these clues, for themselves.

Hush is a decent stalk-and-slash or home invasion thriller. The film utilizes a couple of storytelling levels to explain the tortures of writing as Maddie does her best to survive a fictional, random attack. Shot almost entirely at night, Hush amps up the tension with the use of darkness and also with the use of The Newtown Brother's score. Maddie appears outmatched by her attacker, because of her lack of hearing and vocals. But, when everything is being created within the mind, there can be only one predictable, yet exciting outcome.

Overall: 7.25 out of 10.

A trailer for the film is available here, on 28DLA:

A Hush Trailer on 28DLA

Recommended release: Mark Tonderai's Hush at Amazon (also reviewed on this site)

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