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It’s Oh-So-Quiet

Layout 1So I got to see quite a lot of films during this year’s JDIFF (Jameson Dublin International Film Festival, for the uninitiated), and one of them was “Hush,” a British film from director Mark Tonderai.

“Hush” opens in cinemas this weekend, so in honour of that, here’s a review.

Short answer, 4/5.

For first-time director Mark Tonderai, “Hush” is a film to be proud of, a low-budget British film that walks a fine line between horror and thriller that will get to you in a way a million American-teen-gets-slashed films never could.

While driving along the motorway, Zakes Abbot (Ash) sees what he believes to be a girl, caged in the back of a white truck. Waking girlfriend Beth (Bottomley) to tell her, the two argue over what to do and whether they should or can help her, an argument that underlines some much deeper problems in their relationship. When they stop at a service station, Beth goes missing and Zakes takes it on himself to find her and the white truck that he suspects has taken her.

Amongst a spate of cinema releases involving killers in hockey and mining masks, “Hush” presents its audiences with something truly disturbing: while some scenes may require the occasional suspension of disbelief, veering towards some slasher/horror clichés, the threat in “Hush” is very real, uncomfortably so. Scenes of gore and violence are few and far between, but unexpectedly brutal and realistic, rather than fantasy-based. Similarly, there is no definitive answer as to why Beth and the other girls are being kidnapped: hints of human trafficking abound, but by allowing the audience to decide their own purpose merely adds to the horror of watching Zakes’ and Beth’s plight play out.

It takes some time to warm to Ash and Bottomley as their respective characters: neither is particularly likeable, intentionally so, although both manage to elicit much more sympathy than they deserve. But Tonderai (writer here, as well as director) picks his cast well, and it’s hard not to grow to like Zakes despite his many flaws, even to feel sorry for him, and certainly to fear for his safety when the truck-driver and his accomplice turn the chase on its head and begin to pursue him.

“Hush” is not a comfortable film to watch, by any account: the tension remains high from start to finish, in no way alleviated by the constantly claustrophobic locations, aligning  “Hush” closer to the cat-and-mouse games of “Hard Candy” than any of the slasher films it might also be compared to. Purely for that reason, “Hush” rates as one of the better thrillers to be released so far this year, and perhaps even one of the most effective of recent years.

A very promising first movie from director Tonderai, “Hush” won’t be everyone’s idea of a fun night’s viewing, but if you can live with the discomfort of walking out of the cinema knowing you will never look at a white truck the same way again, it’s well worth it.

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