Month: May 2016

Hush

A deaf writer is trying to finish her next novel. In order to help herself focus, she moves into a secluded house in the woods. One seemingly normal night, the unthinkable happens. A maniac in a mask begins to terrorize the writer. If she can’t find a way to escape, she might not live to see another day.

This was a film with a thrilling plot and some shocking scenes. While the idea of a woman with some kind of impairment being stalked by a psychopath has been done before, I appreciated the attempts at originality in how this film was made. One unique aspect that made this film stand out was the decision by the filmmaker to intermittently take away all sound from the film. This allowed the audience to experience intense moments the way the main character would. I also appreciated that, after the initial shock of the situation, the female lead wasn’t a helpless damsel in distress. She was a strong survivor that pushed through whatever was thrown at her. It would have been easy for the plot to have a defenseless main character, especially since she was deaf, so the simple fact the film went against that grain made it more interesting.

One aspect of the plot that bothered me a bit had to do with the villain of the story. The character himself was fine. He was cool, calculating, psychotic, and clearly enjoyed the suffering he put his victims through. My issue with him had to do with the mask. When you first see this madman he is wearing a terrifying white mask. As we have learned from many slasher films, masks give an anonymity that makes the villain more frightening. If you can’t see their face it makes it more difficult to tell what they are thinking or what they are capable of. It also make the villain seem less human, and therefore more threatening. This film chose to unmask the villain very early on in the film. While I can appreciate that this was likely an attempt to stand out from other thrillers involving masked men, it immediately made him seem less threatening. It was almost as if he went from being a menacing, mysterious evil presence lurking in the shadows to a creepy ex-boyfriend that can’t take a hint.

The star of the film, Kate Siegel (Oculus), did a fantastic job portraying the deaf writer, Maddie. When you see an actor or actress in a role where they do not speak, the way they emote is incredibly important. Siegel definitely succeeded in showing what her character was going through with facial expressions and body language. What I also found quite impressive was her ability to not react to the sounds going on around her. This is obviously an important trait of a deaf character. There would be loud noises happening feet from Siegel’s character, and she wouldn’t even flinch or make the slightest indication she could hear what was happening. John Gallagher Jr. (10 Cloverfield Lane, Newsroom) was also great as the man terrorizing Maddie. As I mentioned before, he wasn’t quite as frightening as you expect a character like this to be, but that was more to do with the loss of the mask than his acting abilities. In fact, just like when I saw him in 10 Cloverfield Lane, I didn’t even recognize him in this film. Gallagher has an incredible ability to immerse himself in a character to the point that I don’t even recognize him.

Hush is an intense film that makes some attempts at re-imagining your typical thriller, but it is a film with its flaws. There are parts that made the film quite unique, such as the total loss of sound at certain scenes and how the filmmakers chose to show Maddie’s internal thoughts. On the other hand, I believe the unmasking happened a bit too early in the film. It made the film lose some of its intensity early on and made scenes that could have been scary fall a bit flat. Looking past the flaws, Hush was still enjoyable to watch and had moments that made me gasp. Viewers that have a certain level of empathy will likely enjoy this film more than others.

OVERALL RATING: 6.5/10

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The Darkness

After a family vacation to the Grand Canyon, strange things begin to happen to the Taylor’s. It seems like their family is falling apart. At the same time, the young autistic son seems to be communicating with some supernatural being he calls “Jenny.” As the family spirals into chaos, the supernatural occurrences only become stronger. The Taylor’s must find a way to defeat the ancient evil that is determined to destroy them.

This is a film that had several interesting plot points, none of which were explored enough. I liked the idea that the evil supernatural beings were part of a lost Native American culture. The problem, however, is the filmmakers only described this in a single online video. Since we don’t see much of the ancient beings in the film, it would have been helpful if more information was given to help the audience better understand their goals. We know the beings want to make the family members either destroy each other or themselves, but it is never really explained why they do this other than briefly mentioning some ominous event known as “the darkness.”

There also wasn’t enough development of the family aspect of the plot line. Things like the son being autistic, the daughter having some issues of her own, and the parents having a difficult marriage were only really touched on the surface. Even when it comes to the son having autism, it is something that is barely discussed during the film. Since he is the one who communicates with the beings and the one who brought the evil into the home, it seems like something that should have been discussed more. This same situation can be seen when it comes to the parent’s marital issues, as well as the daughter’s secret problems.  There is maybe one conversation for each of these things that are supposed to destroy the family, then everything is magically better or never discussed again. If there had been more exploration into these various things that could make the family implode, then it would have made for a much more compelling and convincing story.

One aspect of this film that I did enjoy was the acting. Of course, when judging the acting you have to look past the poor character development. Kevin Bacon (Tremors, Friday the 13th) played the father, Peter Taylor. Bacon was able to act through the deficiencies in the storyline of his character. Even though I felt like I didn’t always understand his motivations, I was still drawn to Bacon every time he was on screen. Radha Mitchell (Silent Hill, Pitch Black) was lucky that she got to play the wife, Bronny Taylor. This was probably the only character that was fully developed throughout the film, and Mitchell did an excellent job. Her character was clearly insecure in her marriage, but she still showed a great amount of strength as a mother and was the only one who cared to find out why her family was falling apart.

The look of the evil Anasazi spirits was another aspect of the film that was not clearly thought out. For the most part, you never really see the spirits. They are no more than passing shadows you see out of the corner of your eye. This makes sense when you consider the fact that the spirits mode of destruction is to make the family destroy themselves. However, since this part of the plot was underdeveloped, it made the spirits’ lack of presence more noticeable. The film felt more like a family drama that just happened to have supernatural creatures lurking in the shadows. It is one of those situations where the filmmakers should have either made the evil presence more prominent, or they should have taken more time to show the effects on the family members.

While The Darkness is not by any means a horrible film, it is definitely a forgettable one. This film had so many things going for it that could have made it amazing: a great cast, interesting story, great director, and a production team that has made other great films. Unfortunately, there were just too many things that were not fully expanded upon to make a memorable story. Also, the last 10 minutes of the film were dripping with sentimentality to the point where it felt like a Hallmark movie. It is always disappointing when a film with so much potential falls flat, not just with critics but with audiences as well. The Darkness is a movie that will be forgotten by the time the next big horror film reaches theaters.

OVERALL RATING: 5/10