Movie Review by Neil Sadler
Starring: William Ash, Christine Bottomley, Claire Keelan, Andreas Wisniewski
Director: Mark Tonderai
In 1971, Stephen Spielberg made a horror film called DUEL about a man and a truck. The Coen Brothers made a thriller called BLOOD SIMPLE and then went on to win an Oscar. Danny Boyle hasn’t done badly since making the simple horror SHALLOW GRAVE. I am sure Mark Tonderai was hoping that HUSH – his first feature as writer and director would bring favourable comparisons with these films.
Sadly whereas DUEL, BLOOD SIMPLE and SHALLOW GRAVE managed to inventively play with the horror/thriller conventions, HUSH feels tired, unoriginal and predictable in comparison.
Zakes (William Abbot) is a failed writer who earns money putting posters in service station toilets. His girlfriend Beth (Christine Bottomley) is along for the ride and the couple are set up as a pretty ordinary young pair. Their initial tenderness is soon replaced by bickering and stories of infidelity as they drive through the rain soaked motorways and service stations of Yorkshire. It’s a nasty dull world but they aren’t a particularly likeable couple. This makes the adventure that overtakes them (literally) when they hit a truck and reveal the caged prisoners inside pretty unbelievable and sadly unengaging.
It is often cited that the heroes in horror films do the stupidest things – going into empty haunted houses etc. Zakes here not only makes some really stupid decisions throughout the film but also seems to develop a superhuman resilience that wouldn’t be out of place in an 80’s action film. At one point we are expected to believe that despite having climbed through the broken glass of a car window, having been beaten about the head with a hammer and had his hands nailed to floor, he manages to climb on top of an articulated lorry and hold on as it drives down a bumpy track. Obviously putting up posters strengthens the body (if not the mind!)
There are a couple of genuine shock moments but they come across as calculated. The main character seems like a bit of wish fulfilment – the writer as superhero. By keeping the villain hidden throughout the film, and having him walk around slowly, I suspect that Tonderai was hoping to create a HALLOWEEN/FRIDAY THE 13TH type villain- but there is no back story and no reason for his actions (until after the credits have started.) He walks too slowly and isn’t the most observant of villains. In DUEL, Spielberg manages to imbue his truck with more menace than Tonderai gives the villain here.
Other minor characters either appear too briefly to make an impact or commit such unmotivated betrayals that I never felt the inclination to commit to them which is a shame as there are some good character actors like Shaun Dingwall and Sheila Reid. Even in horror fodder, there is usually an attempt to give the victims some character but the only victim we really meet here is Beth and she is very thinly painted.
On a positive note, the look of the film is suitably grim and there are moments of genuine tension towards the end of the film. The blurred edges and sharp editing give the film an interesting look but sadly there is little here that hasn’t been done better elsewhere.