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Dir. Mike Flanagan, 2016
Available on Netflix
Mike Flanagan might be the best horror director working today. If you’ve read me for a while you know I think his first feature, Absentia, is one of the best horror films of the decade. His second film was the flawed but still compelling Oculus. Those were both supernatural horror films about family relationships, so Hush, a home invasion/slasher film about isolation (fyi: home invasion films are probably my least favorite subgenre) is a bit of a thematic departure.
The concept of Hush is that Maddie, an author who lost her ability to hear and speak in childhood, is struggling to finish her next novel in her secluded home. During the night she’s stalked by an unnamed masked killer, and the two engage in a game of cat and mouse. That’s basically the entire film, but the visceral relationship which builds between the two characters overcomes the slight storyline.
The heart of the modern slasher film has 2 elements: the one-by-one kills to final girl order, and the machine-like killer. Because the film really only has two characters the tension isn’t based on what we’ve already seen but what might possibly happen; small actions and movements (in this respect Maddie’s inability to hear or speak is not so much a gimmick but a way for the film to focus on concrete action) carry more significant weight. As the film proceeds, the killer loses his mask and an aura of Mike Myers-ness. The lack of elaborate action and the emphasis on the vulnerability of Maddie and her potential killer, makes a familiar setting and action feel fresh and precarious.