Hush. What a terrible title. Not only is it utterly unevocative, but furthermore it’s just totally imaginative. If I say “Hush” it instantly conjures up images of parents struggling to keep control of errant and annoying children, or if you’re nerdy enough, a Batman villain. At a stretch it reminds me of a terrible Kula Shaker song from the 90’s. What it does not help me visualise is a taut thriller about a couple on a motorway near Sheffield (God’s Chosen City) being menaced by a nutter.
Contains human trafficking and spoilers below.
Hush owes an enormous debt to three films. The first is Stephen Spielberg’s Duel, the second is the grossly underrated thriller Roadkill, and the third is the Kurt Russell vehicle (no pun intended) Breakdown. Having said that, I bet you can’t guess what sort of film this is. As such, what we have here is a decent little thriller, that may be a touch too generic, but one that plays out tropes that you would expect to see in this kind of film with no little finesse.
Zakes (William Ash) and his girlfriend Beth (Christina Bottomley) are enduring a somewhat torrid motorway journey. Their relationship is in freefall, and there are insinuations that she’s cheated on him recently. However, the real source of their problems is that his terrible job involves driving around the country putting up posters in service stations and then taking pictures of them. As such his life is unstable, and he’s fighting any further form of commitment from her.
It’s a horrible dark and stormy evening, with the rain pelting down, and driving conditions are severely dangerous. When the truck in front aquaplanes on surface water the rear door opens revealing a woman in a cage inside. Zakes sees it, but Beth doesn’t. Nevertheless, they make an attempt to find out if it’s true, and run down the mobile phone calling the police reporting it. Sadly, it’s a white truck with an obscured number plate so they can’t give an accurate description.
The look on Beth’s face let him know that anal was off the cards again tonight.
Eventually, Zakes makes the disastrous (and selfish) decision to turn off so he can put some posters up. This incites Beth into a frenzy, and she tells him to stick it, and pisses off to make a call from a public pay phone. After an argument with some football fans, Zakes realises he’s in error so goes to try to find her, only to discover that she’s disappeared, and the trucker is on to his investigations.
We’re now into a deadly game of cat and mouse as Zakes strives to rescue Beth before the inevitable rape and torture that’s heading her way. Dismayed to find his car vandalised, Zakes carjacks an old woman to give pursuit of the truck. Can he save his girlfriend from her grisly fate?
This is a good film. Ash and Bottomley are convincing as the young couple, and the time we spend in the car with them is vital to making us care about these characters. They aren’t, and this is a nice touch, particularly likable or heroic, rather they’re a totally normal young couple who, through no fault of their own, land themselves in a world of hurt. We do root for Zakes as he compounds disaster upon disaster, and the ending is entirely suitable for his character, and satisfying as a result.
Zakes’ 10 O’clock appointment with George Michael turned out to be a very bad idea indeed.
This was Mark Tonderai’s first film. As such, he does a cracking job. The service station is a stunningly banal setting, and to manage to generate some of the tensest scenes in the film in such an enormously mundane locale is a real achievement. Furthermore, he’s following a much trod path and as he has the blue print from the aforementioned three films, he has no real need to deviate from it. He handles the film with no little assurance, and it’s not a surprise to see him go on to bigger films with last year’s Jennifer Lawrence vehicle.
That’s not to say that Hush is a superb film. It isn’t. There’s a bad case of third act meltdown. Spoilers ahead, by the by.
Eventually, the script has painted itself into a corner. Zakes has stolen a car with no petrol, is on the run from the police and struggling to keep up with the truck. So, to solve this, he hooks up with Wendy (Claire Keelan), who has allegedly just escaped from the trucker. They then move to an old couple’s house where a twist you can see coming a mile away takes place.
Zakes’ impromptu game of hide and seek had taken a worrying turn
Without being mean, this is an enormous misstep. The film was taut and exciting when it was pared down to minimum, it simply doesn’t need the extra characters adding, not to mention the cut back to the security guards at the service station. I suspect Tonderai (Also on writing duty) is trying to suggest that this is a larger conspiracy than a rogue trucker, but what he actually manages is to dissipate the tension; to allow the viewer to ease out of the film. It’s a shame, actually.
Nevertheless, Hush is a good film. It’s a pity, actually about the third act meltdown because it does detract from what would have been one of the most assured thriller debuts for a long time. There’s a lot to approve of here, and although it is formulaic, I don’t necessarily consider that a massive problem. Hush is a decent time passer, and far from an embarrassment for anyone concerned. Certainly recommended.
I’m actually, in fact, tempted to watch The House at the End of the Street because of it.
Until next time,