Sound is a vital part of any horror film. Perhaps the most vital. What happens, then, when you insert a protagonist into a horror-thriller narrative who is deaf. This is exactly the case with Hush, which pits novelist Maddie Young (Kate Siegal), who lives conveniently in the middle of the woods with few people within screaming distance (if she could scream, that is, as she is also mute), against a masked intruder (John Gallagher Jr.).
This premise, in its early stages of execution, makes for a very intriguing scene that plays to the fact that sound is an advantage this unnamed man has. The dramatic irony inherent in such a scene is exactly what a viewer would expect, yet it still makes for a nice twist on an old favorite.
The film does a lot of this sort of trickery: setting up sound cues early on that only we can hear, which come back later to bite our protagonist.
This same trickery also demands that the film shy away from the most tired of tired horror movie conventions: the jump scare. This is to say, if a film with such a premise as this indulged in the sufficiently indulgent tactic of jump scares, it would prove fatally gimmicky because there would be no option but for these scares to be non-diegetic. Now, there are already plenty of non-diegetic jump scares in horror movies today, to the woe of all those who find them dissatisfying, but executing them here would be all too obvious. Thankfully, they are only a minimal intervention here.
From the jumping off point, the film becomes a sadistic cat and mouse game engineered by the intruder. The fact that this movie could have been over 20 minutes in is rendered null and void by the purely sadistic nature of this man. He wants to toy with her, exploit her fear for his own pleasure.
What this formula leads to is an unfortunately stagnant second act. There is a lot of literal circling around the issue, where we must wait patiently for the climax. Where certain periods of this stagnancy are accompanied by sufficient tension, much of it is mere stagnancy. This is all in spite of an eerie performance from Gallagher Jr., who is nearly wordless through this stretch.
The action and suspense both ramp up in the film’s final third, although it is nothing remarkable. We are left at film’s end with a great premise that had nowhere to go. Hush has its moments, but doesn’t move anywhere, squandering the good acting performances from its two leads with a meandering script.
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—Alex Brannan (@TheAlexBrannan)