31 DAYS OF HORROR #21: Mark Goddard on HUSH (2016)

Spoilers

Mark Goddard – editor of Snakebite Horror and host of the Bloody Good Reads podcast – examines how Mike Flanagan’s home invasion chiller changed his relationship with horror…

When I was asked to take part in this amazing 31 Days of Horror feature a few films came to mind: should I go for an all-time comfort film, like Scream 2? Or something a bit out of left field, like Tucker and Dale vs Evil or Lo? But there is one film which will always receive the highest praise from me, which I can truly say saved my love of horror. And that is the 2016 Netflix sensation Hush.

The first real hit from genre supremo Mike Flanagan, who has gone on to become one of the central pillars of modern horror – thanks to his Netflix shows The Haunting of Hill House (2018), Bly Manor (2020) and Midnight Mass (2021), as well as his take on The Shining follow-up, Doctor Sleep (2019) – Hush is a masterclass in fear, suspense and tension that should be taught in all film schools.

The story follows Maddie (played by Kate Siegel, Flanagan’s wife and star of several of his subsequent projects), a deaf and mute writer who has chosen a life of solitude away from the hustle and bustle, having settled in a remote house to focus on her craft. The problem with being secluded is you can find yourself in deep water with no-one around to help; a situation Maddie experiences as a masked killer decides to play the ultimate game of cat and mouse, forcing Maddie to use her surroundings and senses to outsmart him.

When I first watched Hush I had gotten bored of covering horror, and though I certainly loved the genre when you are reviewing it day in and day out, watching a wide array of low budget B-movies, it can take a toll. And then I discovered this film, a work that took the home invasion trope I have a huge soft spot for and knocked it up several notches in a way I had not felt since Eden Lake.

The tension was palpable: knowing Maddie can’t hear her attacker, and that she is unable to scream for help, aligns the audience with her, urging Maddie along, knowing full well her masked assailant has the upper hand. It uses sound perfectly too (the film has around 15 minutes of dialogue in total), encapsulating Maddie’s world like few other films could and how this shifts the environment around her. The final showdown is a great example of this, where Maddie uses a very loud alarm to throw off her attacker, giving her the upper hand and the chance to take him out.

I will always be thankful to have experienced this film: it saved me in a way I never thought a film could and will forever be one of my favourite horror greats.

Mark Goddard

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