4 out of 5 Skulls
Starring: Kate Siegel, John Galagher Jr.
Written By: Mike Flanagan, Kate Siegel
Directed By: Mike Flanagan
We chose to review Hush because it’s a story about a strong woman who’s put in an impossible situation but chooses to survive no matter what. We really liked Maddie’s character for her unwavering strength, her quick wit and ability to think through possible outcomes and choose the best courses of action. She’s deaf and her assailant tries to use that against her, but she outsmarts him and ends up using it to her advantage. The whole story is strong and captivating while including only minimal dialogue thus shifting focus to authentic reactions and rich suspense.
Upon seeing Hush I really liked the idea of a film tackling a story focusing on a woman who was a deaf writer, secluded, and found herself fighting unspeakable horrors, even in the terms of how this home invasion scenario and fight for her life would be different than what we have seen before. I particularly liked that while on paper Maddie might be viewed as an easy target, she proved she was anything but weak and one strong final girl. She was resourceful and knew how to take care of herself. Even when faced with such a terrifying situation she met it with fierce rationality- which is a feat in itself being surrounded by this level of imminent danger and dread- and had such an unbreakable resilience that really fueled my captivation with the film. I was rooting for her every step of the way and intrigued to see how she would hold her own in this battle. There was even a moment when death seemed to be inevitable and she wasn’t truly fighting that, she was accepting it. Her life was flashing before her, but there was an instinctual part of her that almost while simultaneously accepting death, was still fighting and intended on doing everything she could to bring her killer down with her. Panic and fear, while ever present, never cloud her judgment. It is almost mind boggling and certainly admirable everything she thinks to do, deciding she is fighting until the end. Yet she accepts the very real possibility that she might die before the nights over and wanting there to be a trail back to the person who hunted her for sport, and a descriptive trail at that.
I really like how they introduced and allowed her “writer’s brain” to be such a big part of both her fighting strategy and her being a well-developed, smart, and realistic character. Even though her instincts were incredibly strong and sharp, she never completely relied off them, never acting before thinking. Logic and realism made her just as strong as her determination and spirit did, which was quite refreshing to see, showing strength has many forms. Maddie thought through everything. It being established this is something she did in life as well as her writing, thinking of all possible outcomes and what any given course of action would really look like, it felt true to her character. This also built an intelligent final girl, making her someone who was an equally resilient fighter through the mind and body. Also, by her having this inner “writer’s brain” voice it allowed us to really be in her mind and let us know what she was going through. I thought it was a creative and well done way to give us a little more of where her head was at when aside from this she was silent throughout the film.
I absolutely love Maddie. She is instantly likable and relatable. She is deaf and her attacker tries to use that against her but, in the end, she actually ends up using it to her advantage. While it’s a disadvantage at times and an advantage at others, I really appreciated that it doesn’t define her and it’s not the focus of the story. The focus is how smart and strong she is. Maddie’s ability to think through situations to objectively decide the best actions is her strongest and most admirable quality. Her “writer’s brain” really comes into play and the voice in her head is a great way for an otherwise silent character to show what she’s thinking. A lot of final girls are smart and strong, but, you don’t ever really get a look inside their head as to why they’re making the choices they’re making and what would happen if they made different choices. So, this was a much appreciated unique approach.
Maddie is the type of final girl the genre needs more of. She begins at a disadvantage, but she is never stupid or weak and makes a lot of smart, strong, life-saving choices throughout the film. She shows that anyone can get the upper hand if they stay smart and choose to fight back. Perhaps one of the most admirable qualities about her is that she acknowledges her weaknesses but isn’t held back by them. She recognizes them and consciously decides how to work around them to get the upper hand. She calculates how to use her strengths to make up for her weaknesses and that is illustrated to us beautifully when we get to see inside her mind via her “writer’s brain.” She is an interesting, well-developed character and Kate Siegel’s performance keeps you invested in her through the entire ride. She portrays every emotion without uttering a single word or ever screaming in fear, but you’re right there with her, feeling what she feels. Her performance definitely does justice to such a strong, compelling character.
Agreed, Siegel’s incredible performance and portrayal of Maddie showed all she was going through without a single word spoken, aside from her internal voice which essentially only comes out in one scene. It was partially that raw, gripping emotion she displayed through her eyes and in her actions that allowed me to understand and feel connected to her, that pulled me more in to the panic of this horrible, but very possible situation, that fueled and empowered the entire film. Siegel had to communicate more to us, to tell us this entire story without relying on words to do so, to really have a natural performance, while still really wearing her emotions and thoughts on her sleeve- and she nailed it.
I also have to comment on the inherent challenges this places on a film for the writer. I am always more impressed with a film that manages to be strong and captivating despite having restrictions to overcome such as everything taking place in one, entrapping location with very limited characters. It’s without a doubt, a great challenge for a writer to keep the story moving and not have it feeling redundant or too still in these circumstances. Add limited dialogue to those restrictions and it’s that much more impressive the film we ended up with. Co-writers, Kate Siegel and Mike Flanagan crafted a compelling, brutal script, conquering the challenges and the film is stronger for it. The limited dialogue adds to the disquieting, adrenaline-fueled cat and mouse chase, making the gripping tone and suspense the film triggered in audiences that much more compelling. It was a fairly simple story, but one of primal human instincts and cleverness, valuing the fighters’ spirit and not allowing oneself to be a victim; the very core of a strong final girl.
I completely agree, the story manages to be constantly compelling. It never leaves you bored with the limited location or characters. In fact, you barely realize how little dialogue it has because all the exposition happens in other ways. In the end, I feel like the lack of dialogue actually makes it a more relatable, hard-hitting story.
I really love the above aspect of the writing, but I do have one problem. Since Maddie’s character is so well developed, it didn’t bother me too much at the time that there’s absolutely no explanation of the killer’s motivation. But after reflecting on the movie, it really started to bother me that there is so much missing there. He shows up, kills someone right outside Maddie’s window. She doesn’t notice and because of that, he realizes she’s deaf. He shows his excitement to toy with her. When she finally realizes what’s going on, he taunts her for a while, then, all of a sudden, he has a crossbow. He didn’t have it to begin with and there’s no hint at where it came from. Eventually, Maddie steals it from him and we see some notches in it insinuating that’s how many people he’s killed with it. But we get no backstory on him or the crossbow and after the the story sinks in, its an annoying plot hole.
John Gallagher Jr. does a great job playing the attacker, and the story we do have with him in it is great. But, the missing pieces have overshadowed it for me and I feel like we’re just left with questions. Just a few of the questions we’re left with: Where did he come from? Why is he doing this? Where the hell did the crossbow come from? I think a little backstory would have gone a long way with the attacker and I’m very disappointed we don’t get it.
Totally valid point about the crossbow. The film didn’t take a minute to show him having it from the beginning or showing the moment he got this weapon, so it does come off as a little random and convenient. You also have a fair point about the killer’s lack of motivations, mindset, and means being communicated to the audience as well. In one respect, I didn’t have as much of a problem with this as I usually do in horror films, partially because Maddie’s character and the suspense of this terrifying chase is so strong the killer is almost an afterthought. Necessary, but certainly not the focus. There is a wonderful mysterious, unmoving brutal nature to our killer. The one benefit to there not being any clear motives to what he is doing is there is no rationalizing or bargaining with him.
I admit having a real feel for the villain almost always makes for a far more compelling, layered horror film, particularly if you love the protagonist and are at least intrigued by the villain it can offer a quite interesting dilemma; really allowing you to enjoy both sides as the grisly battle to the death plays out. Typically, the dark exploration really shine through a well-realized villain so that is lacking here since there isn’t much reason. It would have been stronger if it would have at least been addressed even if his motives were summed down to something as simple as saying it was for the thrill of the hunt or for his own, sick entertainment. Those type of motivations have served as one of the most terrifying aspects in past home invasion films. Funny Games is one film that comes to mind that followed this emotionless motivation of it being for their entertainment and nothing else. However, it then connected this to a Hollywood/ American audience desensitization to violence for being the reason they were so unmoved and for their motivation to immerse themselves in violence that felt more real, that was at their very fingertips. While it’s very likely our killer in Hush is doing this for similar reasons tied to his personal entertainment, that not being acknowledged or really explored at all, it loses the substance and potential to use horror to capture something that much more horrifying that ties to our society. In some ways, I enjoyed it being a simple home invasion story, not every horror film has to be rich with exploration, but there is no question that could have brought this film to be something far more unforgettable.
Ultimately, I think for me how they portrayed the killer doesn’t take much away, but there’s no question with a more well developed villain it could have allowed the film to rise to even higher potential. As is, the film is really strong for its rich suspense and portrayal of a strong, smart final girl who fights to the death, but I can’t say the film as a whole is going to linger in my mind or stay with me for very long. It’s the lack of the villain’s mindset being tackled with inherent, compelling themes attached that hold it back from doing so.
Exactly! I really enjoyed the film, but I don’t think it’ll stick with me the way it could have if the killer had been more well developed. Maddie’s character was so well-developed that it didn’t bother me in the moment that the killer’s wasn’t, but the film won’t stick with me the way it could have if his character was a little deeper.
So, I really enjoyed the film and Maddie’s character and there wasn’t a dull moment for me while I was watching it, but, the lack of development on the killer’s character left me disappointed.