Dir. Mark Tonderai, UK, 2009, 91 mins
Cast: Will Ash, Christine Bottomley, Claire Keelan
Review By Matthew Rodgers
A lone couple on an artificially illuminated motorway, destination death at the hands of a faceless pursuer. Duel you say? The Hitcher ? What about that Paul Walker one from a few years back, what's it called? Roadkill . As a screenplay jump off point Hush hardly smacks of originality. But debut writer/director Mark Tonderai has managed to convince some important backers otherwise, because his grimy little British thriller arrives with festival buzz and a theatrical release for a film that's true home is on a genre shelf at your local rental store.
Zakes (Ash) and Beth (Bottomley) are driving along the M1, bickering in an oh-so-familiar way as he completes his glamorous night's work changing the posters in service station toilets. A near collision with a shifty truck causes the truck's back shutter to flip open and reveal what Zakes believes to be a caged woman inside. A series of unfortunate events befall our rather unlikeable couple, as both their's and the killer's paths entwine to underwhelming effect.
And herein lays the problem. As with all films of this ilk we have to like at least one of the victims to care about what happens to them. Beth seems to have fallen out of a failed Hollyoaks audition. Couple that with the fact that she may have been unfaithful to Zakes. He makes some ludicrously divisive plot choices, such as trusting strangers and unnecessarily lingering too long in the killer's trailer. Unappealing as a couple, even the glimmer of character redemption fails to spark any empathy for them. So that leaves the killer to root for. No. Given no distinguishing characteristics apart from being a dog person and wearing large clumpy boots, we have seen this faceless shape before with Michael Myers, only done much better.
Not even the potential for an anthropomorphised truck leering towards our victims is fully utilised. The killer is never scarier than when a pair of headlights flickers on a short way down the road, but this is soon abandoned for a junkyard cat ‘n' mouse chase that descends into tedium. The acting is fine from the small ensemble cast, but when after the first 30 minutes all they are asked to do is scream, breathe heavily and utter a Tarantino rivalling amount of profanity, then praise is indeed faint.
Where Tonderai does succeed is in the aesthetics of Hush. It lacks the polish of a glossy Hollywood vehicle (although it shouldn't be too long before the suits get their remake hats on) but excels in eliciting a grubby, immediate feel to proceedings that at times draws the viewer all to briefly into the protagonists' panicky state of mind.
Genre buffs may disagree, but be warned that you've seen it all before, countless times.