I hate horror movies. Not because a lot of them are poorly made or predictable beyond measure, but because I’m a 22 year-old child who scares easily. But when it comes to Mike Flanagan, the boy wonder director behind a lot of the recent success for Blumhouse studios, I love horror films.
There’s been this strange resurgence of the smart horror films in the last few years. They’ve never left necessarily, but with the emergence of Blumhouse studios, named appropriately after producer Jason Blum, quality made scarefests seem to be coming from every direction. Initially a major force behind 2007s Paranormal Activity, Blumhouse has been involved in Oculus, the highly underrated Ouija sequel, The Visit, Get Out and the aforementioned Hush.
Now three out of the six movies that I mentioned, were directed and partially written by Mike Flanagan, who I first learned about after watching Oculus, a very smart horror thriller that explores the impact of post-traumatic stress and vengeful spirits.
With Hush, available on Netflix, this trend of smart, violent and structurally polished horror films, continues. The plot is relatively straightforward, a deaf and mute author working on her next book in the remote wilderness becomes the muse for a psychotic killer looking to toy with his victims. On paper Hush seems like a pretty rudimentary horror film, and in ways it is. But the fantastic use of sound or lack thereof, heightens the entire premise into that of a nail biting, eye covering experience.
The other great aspect of this movie, which is a staple in every Flanagan movie I’ve seen: smart characters. In Hush, Oculus and the Ouija sequel, there is no yelling at the screen, with our anger directed to dumb horror movie mistakes. The first thing the main character Maddie—the great Kate Siegel, who’s also the wife of Flanagan—does when seeing her attacker through the front door, is slamming it shut and locking that sonofabitch. Throughout the entire 90 minute(ish) run time, Maddie fights back. It is very clear once the horror begins, she is not helpless. She’s a well written character and while not entirely sketched out, provides enough emotion through her actions to make her seem believable. Maddie is a character to root for, and the way she reacts to the violent situation is similar to how most people would.
The other standout in this small cast (roughly four principal actors) is John Gallagher Jr. as the villain appropriately named “The Man,” according to IMDB. I know him from his time on Newsroom as Jim, the divisive (I fucking loved it despite its numerous flaws) HBO drama about you guessed it, a newsroom. In Hush he plays the psychotic killer role with ample gratuitous hatred. We’re never really given a reason for him and his rampage and reasoning isn’t really necessary with this one. I think it would have actually taken away from the plot if his motives were fleshed out. He wants to kill her, she wants to live, simple enough—now watch what crazy shit happens.
As far as negatives go, I mean if you were looking for a more robust horror film, Hush isn’t for you. It’s a stripped down home invasion (sort of) thriller with smart characters, great use of sound and a economical directorial style that doesn’t put Flanagan’s talents on display.
I think that’s what makes him so great as a director, his style of camera movements, angle choice, shot direction etc, all serve to further the action of the story. There’s nothing here that shouts “hey look at me directing the shit out of this movie.” Instead Flanagan forces the audience to pay attention to what’s happening on screen, upping the violence and horror to more than just consequences of the situation.
Hush: It’s on Netflix, so curl up with your hubbie and be prepared for a severely underrated horror film that will have you thinking about it days later.