If the sign of a good comedy is that it gives you four or five really good laughs throughout its running time, then surely for a horror-thriller, three or four good jumps is the equivalent. If that’s what you’re looking for with the new British movie Hush, then you’re not going to be short-changed.
It is a film that takes a little while to get going, though. We start off meeting Zakes (Will Ash) and Beth (Christine Bottomley) as they sit in their car driving up the motorway. Actually, scratch that. They’re sat there bickering, enduring a prolonged argument that’ll be familiar to anyway that sat on said motorway, the land of 1000 arguments. That said, it’s not much fun to watch them, even if it does gradually build up their characters.
Things do get going though when Zakes spots what he thinks is someone stuck in the back of a truck, and subsequently struggles to get the police interested. And when the pair stop at services and spot the same truck again, the film properly kicks into gear when – before you can say The Vanishing – Beth promptly disappears. From there? The film treads a fine line between horror and thriller, and becomes the kind of film that you think Britain simply didn’t produce. Granted, the budget trappings are tricky to hide, but fortunately, they prove to be no distraction.
A couple of further things become clear fairly quickly. Firstly, Tonderai really knows what he’s doing. You can throw a fair few arguments at his script – it has echoes of several other films, and relies on some of the contrivances of the genre to get from A to B (gawd bless the car that will/won’t start depending on what’s happening on screen at the time) – but he proves adept at slowly turning the screw.
It’s his directing that particularly impresses, though. Some of his shot framing is really good, and one of the sequences set in the service station is extremely tense indeed. It’s to Tonderai’s credit that he keeps things lean, and even when you hit what appears to be a fairly predictable final location, he manages to pull a welcome surprise or two. His scriptwriting isn’t bad, but Hush surely marks him as a director very much worth keeping an eye on.
He’s served well by his two leads, with Will Ash in particular excelling as Zakes. There are moments when you wonder why he’s doing what he’s doing, but Ash just about manages to sell them. Christine Bottomley is equally believable as Beth, and while you wouldn’t necessarily want to be in the same room as either of their characters when they start having a barney, they’re both grounded and believable.
The film has its problems. Moments of it really do defy logic, and you can’t help but feel that you’ve trodden this territory many times before. But Hush still works, and manages to avoid the trappings of a genre that’s become obsessed with lashings of gore over substance. It doesn’t outstay its welcome, keeps things tight for the most part, and – while you may need to give it a break or two – is a solid piece of filmmaking. That’ll make you jump.