It has been 10 years since a home invasion horror captivated me so intensely, when ILS (2006) used its set pieces, mysterious antagonists, and rural setting so effectively that it made nights alone at the cottage almost pathetically unbearable. Nights were scary, mysterious unmotivated killers were scary and silence was scary, and HUSH takes the latter to its limits.
Maddie is deaf mute living on her own in a secluded cabin while she completes her next big suspense novel. What seemed like an ordinary day turns into a hellish night when a killer arrives and choose her for his next game of cat and mouse.
HUSH opens with a quick synopsis of the life of a deaf mute but actually does this is a very non-cliche and non-forced way. Director/writer Mike Flanagan could have easily and unknowingly fell victim to the "gimmick opening", where filmmakers use the opening scenes to explain and describe the set of parameters the movies characters will be limited by, or a summation scene like STAR WARS's opening crawl text. But instead he uses intense sounds and zoomed-in visuals to create the world of deaf mute, not unlike the brilliant opening of television's DEXTER.
HUSH comes in at a lean 81 minutes and 70 of those minutes is an edge-of-your-seat, heart-pounding thrill ride full of intense scares, unexpected twists, changing upper hands, and ultra-real resolve. At no point did the film use the characters disability as a crutch in which the suspense depended on, it only built from it. Nor did it seem like a film trying to exploit a gimmick. It all just seemed a part of the package.
[Spoiler Start] One knock on HUSH was the shockingly early unmasking of our masked killer. And I've toiled with the would I have or wouldn't I have if I was at the film's helm. But I think Flanagan does this on purpose, not knowing the identity of our killer would be playing on the minds of viewers until that moment he's revealed, and what a let down that would be to find out he's no one. I'm sure unmasking him early took a little less scare out of "The Man" but if it took a lot of risk out of the inevitable letdown viewers would have felt having him without a backstory it was worth the cost.[Spoiler End]
The SFX team also knocked one out of the park. We see mangled hands, corkscrew caverns, and brick to head bashes to go along with the regular stabbings and crossbow punctures.
Smart script, great scares, good gore. What more can you ask for? Highly recommended.