After the slow burn of his indie thriller “Absentia,” director Mike Flanagan delights again with “Hush.” One of the many films in the grand tradition of “Wait Until Dark,” director Flanagan teams a disabled heroine against a merciless predator who not only wants to murder, but also delights in making her final moments as painful as possible. With a limited setting and cast, director Mike Flanagan is able to take what could have been a tired rehash of tropes and clichés, and transforms it in to a devastating and intense game of cat and mouse. Maddie is a woman who was left deaf and mute after a viral infection. Seeking to finish her new novel, she ventures out in to a condo in the woods as a means of getting away from a turbulent relationship and figuring out how to finish her new manuscript. One night, Maddie doesn’t notice the wolf standing at her door who quickly realizes her inability to detect him.
When he realizes she can’t hear or speak—or scream—he transforms his hunt in to a game. Little does he know that Maddie is more than prepared to fight for her life, and is anxiously trying to figure out a way of contacting the outside world for help. Heroine Maddie is a woman being preyed upon by inexplicable evil, and Flanagan never takes the time out to explain who this masked murderer is or why he’s stalking women and viciously executing them. We don’t need to, and thankfully director Flanagan executes this killer’s entire persona through actions, rather than derail the entire narrative to give us long winded exposition. Just the glance at certain aspects of his personality and weaponry allows us a glimpse in to unstoppable sadistic evil. It’s not just that the film’s villain is genuinely terrifying and inexplicable, but the moment we see him, the entire deck is stacked in his favor.
Maddie is doomed the moment our killer lays eyes on her from a window. By all logic, he can defeat heroine Maddie any time he wants, and he’d surely massacre her. But his cockiness, and her willingness to think like a writer and examine every scenario, allows for a balanced match of wits, and strength that is teeth grindingly tense from start to finish. Kate Siegel gives an enormous and painfully underrated performance as Maggie, a vulnerable and very self-doubting heroine who has to evolve over the course of the narrative. When we meet her, she second guesses everything she does to the point where she can barely make a decent meal for herself, and has to rewire her brain if she hopes to come out of this battle alive. I’d also be remiss if I didn’t mention John Gallagher Jr. who is terrifying as our masked killer who is the definition of a slasher who makes a game out of tormenting his female prey before finishing them off.
Director Flanagan never uses character Maddie’s disabilities as a deaf and mute individual as a convenient plot device, or gimmick. She’s a genuine human being whose will to live out weighs her inability to hear when the masked predator in the woods is literally right behind her. Flanagan offers up a ton of really action packed and briskly paced moments, and also concocts a brilliant means of breaking Maddie’s character without destroying established continuity. Through this he also pays homage to the creative mind of the writer which worked in favor of establishing Maddie as someone thinking outside the box in the company of a merciless monster. Mike Flanagan’s horror thriller is superb, and just a wonderful story from start to finish.