If you're a diehard horror fan, listen up. There's a new indie horror movie on the block, and it may just be one of 2016's most chilling films. It's called Hush; it premiered at SXSW last year, and it's available to stream on Netflix. It might be just the thing you need to tide you over while you wait for this year's other new horror movies. But Hush isn't just you're average scare, and it's not a thoughtless scary trash heap that was hastily assembled and sent out into the void. The movie is good. It holds its own among other recent indie horror movies that left a lasting impression, like the endlessly unsettling It Follows or the psychological bravado that was The Babadook. Feeling curious? Read on to find out why we loved it.
- It's original. We've seen home invasion movies before (think The Strangers, Panic Room, or You're Next), but we've never seen one quite like this. In fact, I don't ever recall the use of a deaf character — Maddie, in this case — as a storytelling device, and it makes for an incredibly compelling narrative. The best part is, Maddie's deafness isn't just a gimmick. It's not quickly forgotten or pushed to the side. It's woven intricately through the fabric of the film. It plays so much into Maddie's character, her lifestyle, and her world.
- It's plausible. Upon first glance, it might seem entirely impractical that a deaf, mute woman lives all alone in the woods. And yet, the backstory is strong. She's there for a good reason. She has people checking in on her, including family and a friendly neighbor. Even the logistics of some psychopath stomping around and tormenting her don't seem far-fetched. He takes her phone, cuts the power, and slashes her tires. It's a very real situation, with a very slim chance of escape.
- It's quiet. This movie does not rely on jump scares or a tense score to inspire dread. Sure, there are moments that could be considered jump scares, and there is certainly music at points. Even so, those touches don't come across as cheap, and they don't seem like a crutch. In fact, on the whole, the movie is pretty quiet. The horror builds in the silence. A few of the most terrifying sequences occur in a space devoid of sound. We spend scenes in Maddie's head, which effectively reduces all audio to faraway thumps.
- It keeps you guessing. Just when you think you know which direction the film is heading, it takes a sharp left. Despite the fact that the premise is so straightforward, Maddie's — and her assailant's — actions really keep you on your toes. It's this unpredictability that is both thrilling and compelling. It draws us in and keeps us there.
- It builds exquisite tension. Despite the fact that Hush falls under the "home invasion" subgenre of horror, the attacker doesn't actually spend more than 10 minutes inside the house. He spends the rest of his time walking the house's perimeter and tormenting Maddie in unimaginable ways. Whenever she exits the house, it's a heartpounding sequence to see if she'll make it safely back inside.
- It's smart. The best kinds of movies drop breadcrumbs in the film's first act and offer a payoff in the final act. This comes into play a lot in Hush as facets of Maddie's character, first presented in the very first scenes, become huge parts of the climax. Even notable objects from the film's opening prove to be crucial components of the chilling ending.
Have we convinced you? Watch the trailer below, then turn off all your lights and start streaming.