The Netflix series The Haunting of Hill House is something of a runaway success. Its use of fractured timelines and layered visuals have brought in fans who may have not cared about horror stories before the series released. While the show's success may seem like a fluke, it’s actually the product of writer-director Mike Flanagan, a guy who's been working within the genre for years; prior to releasing Hill House into the world, he directed a film called Hush that’s incredibly different but every bit as terrifying as his more recent endeavors.
While the series and the film are vastly distinct - The Haunting of Hill House is a gothic-tinged ghost story and Hush is a home invasion slasher mashup - they’re both heavy on scares, and they each speak to the very human fear of the dark.
If you enjoyed counting the hidden ghosts in The Haunting of Hill House, then you’ll appreciate Flanagan’s nuanced approach to the slasher genre in Hush, and you’ll definitely start making sure your doors are locked at night.
The Antagonist's Mask Steps Into The Uncanny Valley
In most slasher films the killer has a mask that's essentially a calling card. Leatherface has his human skin masks, Michael Myers has his empty white Shatner mask, and Jason Voorhees has his ever-changing collection of hockey masks.
While those masks are awesome, the villain's mask in Hush isn't designed to be marketed. It's made to make the audience feel uncomfortable, as it's almost like looking into the face of a normal person, but the physiognomy is just slightly off. Director Mike Flanagan told Moveable Feast the mask has actually been in one of his films before, although it's seen a few alterations:
The mask was designed by Bruce Larson, an artist in Alabama who actually designed the mirror for Oculus and one of the main creatures in Before I Wake. One of the fun Easter eggs in this is that the face that he used for that mask was taken off the mold for a monster in Before I Wake and he just cut out the nose and mouth.
Mike Flanagan And Kate Siegel Staged Break-Ins To Make Sure Their Film Was Realistic
Why do the break-in sequences in Hush feel so real? How are they so perfectly creepy without being over the top?
While Mike Flanagan and Kate Siegel were writing the film they actually broke into their homes and wrote sequences around what they discovered. Flannagan told Moveable Feast:
We would spend most of our time acting out various scenarios and trying to figure [them] out realistically - like how I would try to break into her house and how Kate would try to survive an intruder. We spent way more time mostly up on our feet trying to figure it out, seeing what each of us would do and establish the dynamic we were in through trial and error than actually sitting and writing.
'Hush' Could Actually Happen
When it comes to horror, no sub-genre is better or scarier than another, but some are more realistic. Home invasion films serve as a reminder of how fragile we really are. They're the Grimm's Fairy Tales reminding audiences to lock their doors at night and check their closets for very real monsters.
In real life, it's possible a killer could let the air out of your tires, steal your phone, and get into your house in the middle of the night. This scenario - when executed properly - can bring terror from the real world safely into your home.
The Audience Has A Real Connection With Mike Flanagan's Characters
Regardless of the external threat in Mike Flanagan's productions (The Haunting of Hill House, Hush, Oculus), the director knows the way to truly affect the audience is to make them care about a character. Once you empathize with someone on-screen the last thing you want to see is them catching an arrow in the leg or getting their head smashed in, two very real possibilities in Hush. Flanagan told Slashfilm movies need to have great characters to work:
For me, whether it’s something supernatural or not, it’s never been important. The things that draw me to something are the characters and the tension. I think it was hopefully inevitable that I get out of the supernatural side of things, which is a great way to get started…For me, it’s always been about, ‘Am I connected to the characters?’