♦ ♦ ♦ ◊ ◊
May be worth mentioning before continuing with the review that I have previous with this film. It’s set in the delightful stretch of motorway that passes through my hometown Sheffield and made by the production companies Warp X and Fear Factory, whom I did a bit of work for last year.
I proudly subjected my ex to a very rough cut I managed to coerce the producer into letting me pilfer last year, so seeing it in its final glory in the cinema was a proud moment.
It’s probably worth linking to this video from Mark Kermode, who found himself in a similar situation to me when he reviewed Hush as he is old friends of the director Mark Tonderai. Kermode manages to articulate the difficult position reviewers find themselves in when they have to cover films in which they have a personal connection.
The mundane banality of dead-end jobs, long-term relationships and ambitions that seem frustratingly unreachable all get us down at some point or other but next time it does, spare a thought for Zakes.
Zakes, the protagonist in the low budget genre horror Hush, has the highly unenviable job of placing ads in the gents of service stations along the M1. On route, he clumsily attempts to field his accompanying girlfriend Beth’s nags about the way he “talks about writing his book more than doing it” and how he can’t remember a night they spent together on holiday.
Suddenly, the rear door of the dirty white truck on the road ahead flies up to momentarily reveal a screaming, naked girl encased in a wire cage. After calling the police, zakes is initally unsure whether to pursue the truck. Beth is incandescent at his apparent indifference to the plight of the girl, seeing it as somehow indicative of the problems within their own relationship.
At the next service station, an argument ensues and zakes leaves her to wait in the car. While there, he spots the same white truck and attempts to investigate before returning to find her in the service station. She’s no longer there and, in a terrible moment of realisation, zakes realises she has also been abducted.
Hush is Mark Tonderai’s debut feature and, considering his inexperience and the quite intense lack of financial resources at his disposal, he has done impressively well. The film is at once creepy, gripping, disturbing and, in its quieter moments, tender. Accompanied by an atmospheric score, Tonderai manages the feat of sustaining the pace and energy of the film well as it propels towards the final climax.
Most impressively, as Kermode points out, Tonderai has managed to give the film a distinctive visual style that lends itself well to the subject matter. It is the sign of a director who understands and marshals his subject matter, allowing form to match content.
Will Ash, who plays zakes, gives a spirited and believable performance, particularly when in the throes of one of the many painful experiences he has to endure throughout the course of the film. Tonderai succeeds in aligning the audience’s perspective with that of Ash’s, and we become caught by the rush he is experiencing.
There are problems, namely in conjunction with a script that at times disturbs the rhythm of the film by becoming too concerned with technical minutia but then becoming over-reliant on unexplained coincidence.
Regardless, whatever Hush lacks in subtlety it makes up for in unrelenting tension, panache and adventure. It is certainly quite a journey, and I await more from Mark Tonderai.