Mike Flanagan’s Hush (2016) premiered at South by Southwest in March, Netflix purchased the distribution rights, and now, less than a month later, it's been released as a streaming movie. Salem-born Flanagan previously directed the excellent Oculus, which is, for my money, one of the best horror films of the past decade, and he has two others scheduled for release this year. Hush is of the familiar, self-explanatory “home invasion” subgenre, but with a few twists. One is that the lead character is deaf (almost unique, except that Michael Apted made a 1994 “home invasion” movie with a blind woman, called Blink). The other is that the masked invader eventually removes his mask, and the effect is unexpectedly chilling.
Kate Siegel co-wrote the screenplay and stars as Maddie, a successful author, who has chosen to live in a remote house, adorned with lots of windows and surrounded by woods, to work on her new book. She tries (and fails) to cook dinner, chats with a neighbor (who is trying to learn sign language, although Maddie reads lips), and then holes up for the night. In a shocking scene, the intruder commits a murder right up next to a window without Maddie noticing, and then stalks Maddie, seemingly just for the fun of it. Admittedly, Flanagan occasionally relies on genre staples, but for the most part he creates a tense and effectively gripping tale. Most surprising is John Gallagher Jr.—mainly known for portraying lovably bearded, soft-bellied dorks in The Newsroom, Short Term 12, and 10 Cloverfield Lane—as the terrifyingly lean, cool killer.