Home invasion films have a sense of just utter terror to me that is kind of primal. I’m a paranoid fellow at times and I often worry about certain settings or scenarios because of my long history of love with horror. The idea of a home invasion is terrifying, specifically if you think about how terrifying some of those situations can be. Yet with such an easy subgenre to give me thrills, I often find myself at a loss when it comes to the craft or overall execution of those films. There are so many flops in this genre it is staggering, and I want to find one that finally brings to me a tale worth raving about. Luckily, Mike Flanagan’s Hush could very well be that film. I was previously impressed by the visual trickery Flanagan used in Oculus and I feel like he is certainly a director that could become an auteur of horror films down the line. Will Hush just prove the point more or is this the first film that shows the cracks in his armour?
Hush is a very basic idea that almost feels like a classical allegory. It is about a woman who is deaf living out in the woods, who is happened upon by a skilled killer who feels like he can have fun with her. It is a battle of wits against a sociopath with no remorse who revels in having the chance to kill someone who cannot hear. It is at times painful to watch this type of story being told, especially with such a talented and career changing turn for John Gallagher Jr. as the sociopath. The film is done such a way that it follows a very narrow structure and one that greatly favours having such a small cast and a distinct focus on both its lead and her antagonist. It is a cat and mouse type of home invasion film, so the narrative doesn’t necessarily go the most creative route in terms of storytelling and some of the elements feel like they are just to tack on time. This happens especially when Maddie Young (Kate Siegel) has that inner voice talking in her head and coming up with plans, it feels more like a character quirk than anything really tapped onto and when the film’s narrative doesn’t dip into moments like these is when I think it is its most effective.
One of the best parts of this allegorical film is its antagonist. John Gallagher Jr. is terrifyingly realistic in this role as he toys with Siegel in a playful sort of way. He wants her to know that he is in full control of the situation almost to the point of him trying to prove that he is in some way better than her. That he can get in whenever he wants, but he wants to have fun first before doing that. This character is the twisted embodiment of perception and is played to a T through Gallagher Jr.’s performance. Though this is not a movie about succumbing to the sociopath, but against fighting through this horrid predicament you can’t help but think it works as well as it does due to twisted personality and actions of the sociopath. That moment when he realizes that she is deaf, and has that little head tilt is tantalizing to me it is like he is essentially a kid who was given unrestrained access to a candy store. It is the choices made and how he feels he can defeat her at any time is what essentially gives her the chance to survive the night, the very hubris of the perception.
The lead female has caused I believe some controversy though for not being someone who is in fact actually deaf. In an allegorical sense if one looks at the real life circumstances it can come off as very shallow that they weren’t able to completely commit to the idea. Though not every casting is going to be picture perfect I think, and every actor/actress essentially need to work to get paid so I am not as hard upon them for that very aspect as the fictional narrative still works for its overall battle. Kate Siegel’s character is not the best fleshed out character if I’m being blunt, none of the characters truly are. Why this character works so well is the technical application adapting both its cinematography and sound design to give her a more accurate depiction to the audience at hand. Kate Siegel works in the role, and she in some moments is quite mesmerizing on the screen as you see her fight back quite valiantly against someone who feels like they are in complete control of the situation. Some of the elements just feel very shallow when talked about during the narrative. I mean the past boyfriend that many discussed about really doesn’t play into the entirety of the film and that kind of drove me crazy.
This film I would say does work well if we are purely looking at the fictional context of it. This is a film that neglects stereotype and attacks the perception of those who do closely resemble the sociopath’s way of thinking. There is this very universal terror Maddie feels that is intrinsic with every horror film of this nature. The film essentially normalizes Maddie as a character and doesn’t play upon the stereotypes usually seen in films that have dramatized disabled characters. She is confident, intelligent and the entire battle is about wits and effectively attacking the hubris of the sociopath. While this film is not perfect in its representation, with Kate Siegel not actually being deaf or mute, it manages to create a strong female presence that doesn’t see herself at a deficit in this scenario. The film plays upon her strengths as an individual and showcases how she is never as helpless as the sociopath believes she is. That to me is the true beauty of its allegory. Hush really only uses her other senses once throughout the entirety of them film, it is entirely upon having her intelligently try to think her way out of the predicament.
Hush is a very blunt film with a non-complex narrative, one played in a more allegorical sense than anything else and its final sequences when the killer feels he must end it is where some of the best scenes of the entire film hit you. I won’t say if it is validating or not as it is up to you to look into the narrative but it is one rollercoaster that is quite involved for the viewer especially when you have the various confrontations between the two titular characters. Hush and 10 Cloverfield Lane have certainly put John Gallagher Jr. on my list of actors to look out for. In a fictional context the film lives through its technical prowess in cinematography, sound design and directing. You feel so immersed into the world and how effective the film is through not only its acting but how well it is presented for the most part. The narrative tries to add too much spice which often comes off as trying to tack on time as most of it just doesn’t pay off at all. Hush is effective due to its acting and stellar visual and audio prowess, and helps to create an allegorical narrative that is quite empowering.
10 Cloverfield Lane (2016) – I mentioned it while talking about Hush and I’ll mention it again, 10 Cloverfield Lane is a very suspenseful film. It revels in its claustrophobic setting and its characters are all interesting to get to know, and what a turn by John Goodman. If you didn’t enjoy the original Cloverfield, don’t worry as this film is nothing like it and completely subverts the name.
Don’t Breathe (2016) – A blind pick, but not one without thought put into it. Don’t Breathe is one of the premiere horror films that have come out this year that was praised by a large audience. This is primarily due to the effective nature of it subverting the home invasion setting into a more terrifying and visceral twist on the subgenre. It could very easily be worth a shot.
Well this one took longer to write and get down than expected. Hush truly was a fascinating watch and one that I had to rewatch in order to fully wrap my head around what I wanted to say. So how do you guys feel about these home invasion films? Please leave a comment down below and have yourself a great day!