Mar 20, 2009

Hush [15]

Dir: Mark Tonderai
Mark Tonderai began his career, at some ludicrously youthful age, as a DJ at BBC Radio 1. He’s worked as a writer, editor and actor on TV, and he’s appeared in films as well, it seems that only writing and directing a feature was left on the to do list, and with Hush Tonderai has now ticked that off.

Hush is a horror film that never met a cliché it didn’t like. It doesn’t have a single idea you won’t find in numerous other films, both better and worse than this one. It begins something like Duel, or the first half of Jeepers Creepers, or the relatively forgotten Joyride (a.k.a Roadkill) before ending up as more of a backwoods horror with a stalking killer, but despite its incredible over-familiarity Hush does work.

Tonderai clearly spent those years in TV well, made on a small budget with a miniscule cast and just a few locations Hush still looks pretty damn good, there is some very nice lighting here, and strong composition. Tonderai’s use of focus, while belaboring the point he’s making somewhat, is also technically excellent. This confident crafting continues with the few effects in the film; a good stabbing to the eye, and a wince making nail through the hand being especially strong.

The problem really lies with the script; it’s so schematic, so obviously sewn together from bits of other films that Tonderai really likes, that after the character building of the first fifteen minutes, which is quite well done, you are forever ahead of the movie, because it plays like you’ve already watched it. Predictable isn’t the word, you can count down to many of the scares (I literally did so in one scene involving a mobile phone, I counted 3, 2, 1 and it rang) and nothing even remotely unexpected ever happens, because even when Tonderai does come up with something that might prove a shock he telegraphs it. There is one larger problem with the screenplay, a massive credibility gap at its centre, but one that would constitute a big spoiler.

That said Hush does contain some genuinely nailbiting sequences, okay so the toilet scene is an almost direct lift from Haute Tension, but it’s very well executed and you will be white knuckled by the end of it. This is also the case with some of the scenes in and around the truck that Zakes (Will Ash) thinks has kidnapped his girlfriend Beth (Christine Bottomley).

The performances are resolutely average. Ash is fine as an average guy thrust into a horrifying situation.  While Bottomley has a rather grating character she’s perfectly natural as Beth. There’s not a massive amount for them to work with, and other characters are portrayed in only the broadest fashion. It works for the genre, but a little depth wouldn’t have gone amiss.

Overall Hush is perfectly fine, it’s formulaic and forgettable, but its also brief and entertaining enough that it gets away with its many flaws. I’d like to see Mark Tonderai direct someone else’s writing next time; he clearly has an eye, but he’s no great shakes as a screenwriter.

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