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Hush: The Silent Scream is Sometimes the Loudest

The key to a good horror film is editing and sound design. These two things play in tandem, one benefiting from the other. Especially effective is sound when you cannot see, and while this film plays off that idea, it also reverses the idea: sight when you cannot hear.

The story is basic enough. It follows the Aristotelian virtues: taking place in a single setting during a single day from a single perspective. We know very little about the characters, and there is virtually no exposition, so when a secondary character starts performing hand signals, we think she is crazy until the movie gives us enough indirect information for us to safely conclude that she is deaf and mute. This is essentially visual realism, but there are plenty of clues, probably many more in hindsight. And this is a film that recommends a second viewing purely on that note.

It isn't complex, from a story-telling point of view, but its delivery is sophisticated and effective, understanding the nuances of horror from a unique perspective. It is realistic, too: the Lebowitz characters aren't stupid, and arguably as smart as the heroine, who is exceptionally bright. There is a red herring in the form of phone tag with an estranged ex, which might seem like it's leading somewhere but really is an extended visual explanation as to how alone the protagonist is. This film doesn't spell anything out, and certain devices that we come to expect as spoon-feeding us information aren't present; this isn't a film for lazy viewers with short attention spans. It isn't a long film, by any means, but it takes its time, and develops tension.

In regards to the realism, I found the small details a breath of fresh air. In too many films, for example, the hero seems to be unaffected by life-threatening injuries. Here, the character suffers from blood loss, growing weaker and weaker until her vision starts to fade. There are Chekhov's Guns present, but they are not front and center, and in my opinion, any writing device that is used effectively belongs in a film. The motives of the killer are never explained (which is realistic) and what unfolds is a game of cat and mouse between him and his would-be victim. He doesn't know certain things about her, such as, that she's deaf and mute, nor that the windows to her home are smash-resistant. At the same time, she is hardly invincible, taking injuries along the way that are more grievous than what she dishes out. She fights back, but he is realistically the more efficient killer. And these injuries come back to haunt her in the final confrontation.

The final battle between them is satisfying in that it levels the playing field to an extend, but the male killer still has an advantage. He uses his strength to over power the weak-from-blood-loss, injured girl. Still, a fight between him and a strong man earlier in the film establishes that he is not terribly strong and, as such, isn't able to immediately strangle the heroine to death. She responds accordingly, dispatching him with the movie's first and most subtle Chekhov's Gun, a corkscrew.

Much of the film is spent with the villain toying with his victim and she trying to find ways to communicate with the authorities. They chess match slowly reminds us how alone she is, and after the only two people she affiliates with on a daily basis are dead, and all communication has been severed, does she come to the grim conclusion that she has to fight this man. The way this happens might seem like a cheap scare, as we are lead to believe an imagined scene where she is brained with a rock to have actually occurred, but it harkens back to her "writer's brain," which is discussed earlier in the film, and for the first time, in the film, we hear Maggie's "voice" as she converses with herself, playing out the different "endings" to this "story."

Some people have complained that the killer toys with her instead of killing her immediately when he is in the house. But they are missing the point: He is a cat toying with his prey and the idea of using his other victims to build up as much fear in the final girl (and us, the audience) as he can, is why he does what he does. The first two kills are just appetizers to the main course. He lives to instill absolute fear in someone. It is worth noting that his inability to break away from this obsession to terrify is his downfall, but it is only fitting and I hardly found it something to complain about. People that do need their heads examined.

Also, there is a cat in this movie. Eat your heart out, Alien.


About me: My name is Nick van der Waard and I'm a Gothic ludologist. I primarily write reviews, Gothic analyses, and interviews. Because my main body of work is relatively vast, I've compiled it into a single compendium where I not only list my favorite works, I also summarize them. Check it out, here!

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