Last night, I watched another horror film, one that had been recommended to me many times: Hush. And since it was just released widely this year, it's not exactly a superfluous movie review - yay!
The movie is about Maddie Young, a writer living alone away from the city, who is deaf and mute, due to a bout with meningitis as a teenager. We meet her as she is cooking dinner, and is visited by next-door neighbor, Sarah, who has just finished Maddie's book. Maddie describes her approach to writing to Sarah, and notes that she writes many potential endings to any of her stories.
Their interaction is briefly interrupted when Maddie's (forgotten) cooking sets off her fire alarm, which is extremely loud; Maddie shares that this is so she can feel the vibrations of the alarm, even if she is asleep. We are able to gather that Maddie is completely deaf, rather than simply extremely hearing impaired.
Later that night, as Maddie is cleaning up the remnants of her cooking, Sarah runs onto Maddie's porch and bangs on the door. Maddie unfortunately doesn't hear her, and we realize that Sarah is being chased by a masked man. The man stabs and kills Sarah, noticing that Maddie doesn't notice what is happening. Later, as Maddie is Facetime-ing with her sister on her laptop, he sneaks in and steals Maddie's phone, then sneaks back outside and sends her pictures through various windows of the house to alert her of his presence.
Maddie is able to lock her doors to keep the man out, but before she can contact 911 through her computer, the man cuts off the power, shutting down her Wi-Fi. She writes a note on her door in lipstick, telling him that she didn't see his face and won't tell anyone about what he did. He removes his mask, communicating to her that he knows she won't tell anyone about him, because he is not going to let her live. The rest of the film is about the man terrorizing Maddie, while she tries to alert help, distract the attacker, and escape.
The movie only has 5 characters (6 if you count the cat), and takes place in and around a single house. Still, the movie is action-packed and keeps you engaged. Additionally, the lead character has very little dialogue (since she is mute - the only dialogue from her comes in the form of her inner voice, which is very craftily done, especially in one scene as she considers the different endings, so it doesn't feel like lame voice-over. Most of her dialogue is in the form of sign language with subtitles. In fact, the director is very thoughtful in his use of sound, and actually used the sound of ultrasound machines to give us a glimpse of what Maddie's world sounds like, during the scenes that adopt Maddie's POV. He made this decision because he feared complete silence would make the audience seek sound from elsewhere or tune out from the movie. Additional sounds, such as Maddie's breathing, were added in during post-sound editing.
I really only have three complaints about the movie. The very beginning of the movie (where the splash screens of the different production houses are displayed) is completely soundless. I thought there was something wrong with my speakers at first, which I'm guessing was intended, and they probably expected people to turn their sound up as a result, because the very beginning of the movie featured a sudden bell sound that made me jump. I can understand where they were going with this, since it's a movie where sound or lack of sound make an important statement, but it was a little gimmicky.
The second thing is that, when Sarah runs onto Maddie's porch, and has enough of a headstart from the masked man to bang on the door several times and call for help, we assumed the door was locked. However, moments later, the masked man sneaks through one door (which is unlocked), and then Maddie runs around the house locking doors, including the porch door (which was unlocked just before). How come Sarah couldn't get in? It's possible she didn't try, and assumed it was locked or was in such a state of panic she didn't even think about it. At the time, I didn't pay attention to whether she tried the door. Relatedly (number 3), it seems strange that the masked man wasn't that concerned Sarah was trying to alert her neighbor, suggesting he knew Maddie was deaf. But he acts surprised when he observes this and does a few tests (knocking on and scraping his knife across the glass) to confirm. Since he didn't know before Sarah ran to that house that Maddie was deaf, wasn't he worried that she would call the police before he was able to stop her?
Despite these potential plot holes, the movie was excellently done, in writing, acting, and filming. I highly recommend it, despite the fact that the home invasion genre is one of my least favorite forms of horror.