Hush (2009)

Hush reviewReviewed by Gareth Jones

Starring William Ash, Christine Bottomley, Andreas Wisniewski, Claire Keelan

Directed Mark Tonderai

Some good ol’ torrential British weather sets the backdrop for Hush which, as you read this, is plonking itself onto DVD and Blu-Ray shelves in the UK.

This incredibly tense debut feature from writer/director Mark Tonderai follows the story of Zakes (William Ash) and his girlfriend Beth (Christine Bottomley) as they travel up England’s M1 motorway. Zakes, an aspiring writer, has taken a part-time job putting up posters and changing advertising displays at each junction’s rest stops in order to keep financially afloat long enough to finish his novel. The couple are on less than solid foundations with Beth especially irritated at her boyfriend’s procrastination, but also mentally wrangling with a secret of her own.

When a bump in the road causes the shutter of the truck in front to briefly rise, Zakes is horrified to see a semi-naked woman caged and shackled inside. After reporting this to the police via mobile phone, he decides to finish the job he is being paid for – much to the chagrin of Beth, who declares that she no longer wants to be in the car with him and will call a friend to pick her up. Things don’t go quite to plan, however, as Beth disappears from the service station and Zakes catches a look at the now familiar white truck leaving the scene.

Here begins the frantic cat and mouse chase which makes up the remainder of Hush’s runtime, as Zakes does whatever necessary to stay on the tail of the truck and its mysterious driver while attempting to garner assistance from authorities along the way. Director Tonderai keeps the proceedings at an extremely close, personal level with Zakes – making William Ash the true star of the show here as he’s put through the wringer. Ash comes through with aplomb, imbuing his character with a true “everyman” quality and really making us part of the desperation, pain, fear, disappointment and emotional turmoil he is forced to endure and, ultimately, overcome.

In fact, there are only a couple of moments in the entire film which don’t directly involve Zakes, and these do hint at a wider conspiracy behind the abductions however are never fully expanded upon. This might be a negative factor for many viewers (and perhaps does feel a little shoe-horned in simply to add a gore scene), however it does serve its purpose in upping the ante for just what Zakes will have to face during his struggle.

While Hush does have a few slightly graphic scenes of violence, tension is the order of the day here. As soon as Beth disappears and Zakes is on the move, the only time you’re allowed to catch your breath is when you’re holding it. Andreas Wisniewski (who some might remember as the terrorist Tony in Die Hard) brings us the truck’s driver, credited as “The Tarman”. This individual is the embodiment of physical threat, his face permanently hidden by a hoodie as he silently stalks Zakes Michael Myers style through some amazingly nerve-wracking internal scenes and the taut (albeit possibly anti-climactic) finale. Every time he steps out of the truck you expect the body count to go up. Tonderai even manages to take the cliché “character hiding in a toilet cubicle” stalk scene and present it to you in such a nail-biting fashion that you, quite frankly, won’t care that you’ve seen it a million times.

A rather needless late second-act twist does mar the proceedings slightly (again, appearing pushed in there only to offer a few gory, torture-porn inspired thrills), and some viewers may find it difficult not to scream at the screen considering some of the choices our protagonist makes, but it really is hard to hold that in any negative stead considering the level of talent on display here. Tonderai, with the limited budget he had, has also instilled Hush with an impressively “real” visual quality. The chaos of the M1 on a rainy night, the pale, clinical emptiness of the service stations and even the floodlit final location are all nicely realised and keep you trapped right in every moment with Zakes.

As a loose comparison, I would say think of the rather decent Kurt Russell vehicle (pun intended) Break Down mixed with a small dose of Alexandre Aja’s Haute Tension, minus the latter’s extreme propensity for gore. While the fact that some scenes may be inherently clichéd and the path the story takes in the third act is nowhere near as strong as those preceding it does bring Hush down a notch, as an exercise in tension it’s bang on the money. A strong lead and knife-edge direction help it pull clear and away from most other low-budget genre flicks.

As per usual with most under-the-radar UK movies, there is no release date currently set for Hush in the US. If you have a multi-region DVD player or get the chance to see it elsewhere it comes with a hearty recommendation.

Just make sure you leave your manicure until afterwards, okay?

3 1/2 out of 5

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Gareth Jones

Horror is my jam, yo.