Home invasion gets its biggest reinvigoration since You’re Next with Hush, the latest from Oculus director Mike Flanagan. Smart, lean and full of good performances, its addition of a couple of unique selling points to the mix helps to distract from its more predictable moments.
Author Maddie Young (Kate Siegel, who also co-wrote) is at home alone working on the follow-up to her breakthrough first novel. A visit from her neighbour reveals to us that, owing to a childhood bacterial meningitis affliction, she is both deaf and mute. It’s a simple tweak to the home invasion formula, but it’s one that opens up a world of possibilities in terms of finding new ways to amp up the tension. Hush explores these in depth when Maddie’s rural home is set upon by a masked intruder, and an array of fresh and original set-pieces mean that what the film lacks in character development it makes up for in genuine, unsettling tension.
Hush also takes the bold step of unmasking its antagonist unusually early. It’s a gamble that mostly succeeds: the absence of a third act “reveal” of the killer’s identity is an unusual one, but also means that it can move briskly through its svelte 82-minute runtime without having to get bogged down in over-explanation. Also working in its favour is its use of technology: Flanagan and Siegel are acutely attuned to the possiblities that smartphones and laptops offer in storytelling and filmmaking in 2016, and examine every inch of them, with some clever moments helping to keep afloat a second act whose cat-and-mouse element would otherwise threaten to grate.
As so many films of the subgenre do, Hush begins to falter more noticeably when it has to bring itself to an ending. Action-packed without being especially compelling, its final fifteen minutes or so don’t entirely do justice to what came before it. That being said, this is still pretty striking stuff. For all its imperfections, Hush is an unbearably tense and enjoyably punchy thriller that delivers some unexpectedly big surprises.
‘Hush’ is available to stream now on Netflix. Watch the trailer here.