Hush (2009) is a low budget British horror about a young couple on the motorway who catch a glimpse into the back of a passing lorry that seems to be carrying a caged girl. The film is set mostly on motorways and in service stations in the dark and in the rain as the hero Zakes Abbot (William Ash) gets increasingly drawn in to a dangerous game of cat and mouse. The cinematography is great and direction is sharp, it’s very competently made but it could easily have been merely competent, after all this sort of horror fair is incredibly commonplace. What really sets Hush apart is how Zakes deals with the situation.
See, most horror films have a problem: nearly every hero in these films is scared, witless and cliched and eventually, annoying. Why Hush stands out – at least in my book – is that it is not really a horror film at all. It’s a game of cat and mouse but not the usual mouse that runs from hole to hole crying and tripping over. Zakes is brave and resourceful and he is proactive instead of merely responding to threats. At times he makes mistakes sure – it would be a crappy film if he had some sort of precognitive ability to know exactly what to do at all times – but he is sometimes really inventive and quick-witted despite things going constantly wrong for him. It’s a tough balance to strike, but I think this is one of the only horror films I have seen where I have thought the hero/victim acted more competently and pragmatically than I think that I would, I was genuinely impressed by a lot of his actions, so much so that I began to root for him even though he wasn’t the easiest character to like.
A lot of the criticism for the film that I have seen seems to say that the film follows too many familiar horror tropes, but I think that most of these can be addressed and most of them come from the misconception that the film is a typical horror film. For example, the villain is always hooded and always slow walking – it’s easy to think that he is a ‘Jeepers Creepers’ type monster and that he would be more efficient if he ran… but I thought of it totally differently. To me he was just a man – we see him showering and going to the loo. He drives a truck, he’s probably tired and anxious. He’s not a monster, and probably not even a psycho or a murderer. He’s working for what is probably a large criminal conspiracy and I think he walks because he is hesitant and cautious. He knows it is one versus one and that he isn’t some unstoppable Jason Voorhees type killer, it’s realistic. I liked that he never spoke or was fully seen, it made me think about his version of events and how his mind was racing trying to think how he could deal with Zakes – it was like playing poker, sometimes each player had strong hands and sometimes they were bluffing.
The film had one major stumble I felt, during the farmhouse scene which I don’t feel made much sense and which seemed like a diversion. But the scene is kept short and didn’t really overstay it’s welcome as these things sometimes can do, it’s just with hindsight that I wonder what the point of it was. Some of the violence is a little implausible. And I don’t think there are any actual plot holes, there are times when it may seem like Zakes’ actions are illogical but I felt it was symptomatic of his brain racing to come up with solutions on the spur of the moment: he’s desperate. If you think about things they can be explained.
Overall I would recommend Hush (although why it is called Hush is anyone’s guess), but I think anyone that is expecting a good horror film will be very disappointed: they will see it failing to live up to their expectations of a horror film. What you get is a thriller that is reminiscent of Hitchcock. I’s never scary or ‘terrifying’ as the poster says, it’s not even always that tense, but it is interesting and compelling. And it’s just nice to see a film where the hero is both impressive yet believable, good for him.