JULY 28, 2009
SOURCE: DVD (STORE RENTAL)
Have you seen Breakdown, with Kurt Russell? If not, you should. If you have, just imagine you’re watching it while bouncing around in the back of a pickup truck, and viola! You’ve seen Hush. Because, a few decent scenes and a nice twist aside, it’s the exact same movie - a guy spends the night chasing after the truck that he believes has taken his woman - except writer/director Mark Tonderai films the entire thing in shaki-cam, an effect that runs the gamut from reasonable to downright annoying, sometimes in the same scene.
I’m not really an opponent of shaki-cam. People supposedly puked while watching Blair Witch, but I never had a problem with it there. And in the hands of a master like Paul Greengrass, it can be a truly effective device. But Tonderai is not such a master. For every nice use, like when he makes it look like a POV of the bad guy in order to mis-direct us, there’s a dozen times when it’s just distracting and without any benefit to the story or tone of a scene. Do we really need to have the camera jerking around when our hero is merely feeding a dog? Get a goddamn tripod, mate.
Oh yeah, this one is from the UK, so I guess it’s OK that there isn’t a single original idea within its barely feature length running time (91 minutes - but 10 of them are credits). Like 28 Days Later, every single story bit can be found in an earlier, better film, but as long as everyone’s driving on the left and saying “Oy!” it’s apparently acceptable. Hence why the cover has quotes comparing the film to the best of Hitchcock. To my eyes, all I saw was a hodgepodge of Breakdown, Duel, Joy Ride, and The Vanishing, with little to add to the template. The closest the film gets to an original idea is the hero’s job - he is in charge of changing the advertisements in gas station restrooms. I have seen a lot of movies in my day, and I am 100% positive that Hush is the first one with a character under this particular employment. Well done.
Besides the lack of originality, the movie really blunders by not giving any sort of motive or backstory to the villains. We find out that there are three of them; one is introduced as such and then never appears in the proper film again (there’s a quick bit with him during the end credits), and another is killed within moments of THEIR reveal. That leaves the main bad guy, whose face we never see and who never utters a word. This isn’t always a problem (Duel, and of course Halloween), but those films were bare basic narratives, so it was OK for the villain to follow suit. Here, the guy has this giant compound with laser sensors, and has folks in his employ, plus a few other victims chained up in his lair - you can’t have all this stuff and not give even the slightest explanation for why its there! It’s the same issue I had with Laid to Rest; if you’re going to give your villain all these “toys”, you need to explain what they are for.
Another thing that irked me was the repetition. There are at least four scenes where the hero has to flatten himself against a wall or on a car seat while the bad guy snoops around, only to be distracted away at the last second and allow our hero to get away. And some of them are painfully contrived, like when he is hiding in the bathroom and the killer comes in. Rather than act like a normal person in this situation and stand on the toilet, he instead grabs onto the little coathook on the door and suspends himself. What? Luckily, this leads to one of those few good scenes (two cops walk in, and then the four men all wash hands next to one another), but it’s not worth the eye-rolling that precedes it.
Another thing I liked was the sound editing. Throughout the film, we continually hear things that don’t match up to the image, such as a phone conversation over a shot of the person still sitting down before they get up to make the call. Because it’s been set up, it allows Tonderai to pull a fast one during one particular scene (think the “FBI raid” scene from Silence of the Lambs) without it really being a cheat. Nice work.
The DVD comes with a whopping 22 featurettes, which run anywhere from 1-3 minutes, focusing on a different scene, actor, or crew member. Much is made about the film’s rear projection (which is often good but in one case, completely botched as the projected footage is scaled too low in comparison to the car) and other low-budget techniques, but not a single one addresses the script in any meaningful way, which, as is usually the case, is the root of the film’s problems and thus not related to any budgetary limitations. Shaki-cam aside, the director does a good job and I never suspected the low budget until it was mentioned, so it’s a shame that the script was so generic and under-developed. Hopefully next time around, Tonderai will have a better story to work with, or at least one with some personality.
Oh one last thing - if you're going to give your movie such a generic and terrible title, shouldn't it at least have something to do with the plot? Yeah, the guy has to keep quiet every now and then, but how is that different than any other thriller? Alternate title suggestions: Make Phone Call, Run, Hide, Yell "No!", or Drive Frantically.
What say you?