Director - David Lee Madison
Cast - Brad Loree, Edward X. Young, Stephen Geoffreys
Country of Origin - U.S.
Distributor - Kino
Reviewer - Bobby Morgan
The Film: 1/5
Holland Price (Brad Loree) is living a perfect, idyllic life with his wife Julie (Jessica Cameron) and daughter Amy (Megan Heckman) until one Halloween night when a madman (Edward X. Young) dressed as a priest invades their home, slits Julie’s throat, and takes Amy away into the darkness all while singing “Hush Little Baby“. Ten years later Holland, now sporting a Kurt Cobain hairdo, is slaving away as a dishwasher for foul-mouthed restaurant owner Mac (Steve Dash) and living in a tent. Although he remains hopeful that he can find his daughter he soon strikes up a relationship with waitress Debbie (Connie Giordano). But any hope of Holland having a happy and normal life is laid to waste when the evil Mr. Hush returns to claim more victims, this time with the maniacal Stark (Stephen Geoffreys) by his side. The only standing between these psychopaths and an endless supply of fresh victims is the enraged Holland, but in his fight to stop Mr. Hush’s reign of terror he will discover some very dark secrets about the maniac who destroyed the ones he loved….secrets that reach back many decades in Holland’s family history.
The year may not be over yet but it appears that I can honestly declare a winner for the worst movie I’ve seen in 2012. Even though it was completed nearly two years ago Mr. Hush is only now finally seeing a release but it isn’t difficult to understand why it sat on the shelf for so long. This movie is plain fucking terrible. When I received the Blu-ray for review I was looking forward to giving it a watch at first. I wasn’t expecting an Oscar-caliber feature but at the very least was counting on Mr. Hush to deliver ninety of solid, shameless entertainment. Ten minutes into my first (and you bet your ass it’ll be the only) viewing my heart started to sink like a stone with another, heavier stone tied to it. By the time the movie was over I went into my bathroom and looked at my face in the mirror; it looked like all color had been drained and my only facial expression was a look of sour discontent. It’s very rare when a film is so bad it almost ruins my entire day. Fortunately after I finished watching Mr. Hush I went out to meet a good friend for coffee and the weather was very warm but also beautiful. Before the day was through the movie was little more than a mediocre memory.
That right there is the greatest failing of Mr. Hush: it’s bland and forgettable. Writer/director David Lee Madison had the crucial components to make a halfway decent horror flick - the story was hoary and derivative but with the right touch could have worked again, and Madison proves here that he’s not completely untalented behind the camera. It’s in every other area of the film where he blows it big time. For one thing the casting is atrocious, and any great director will tell you that that is the most crucial aspect of making a good feature film. Madison kneecapped his own movie right from the beginning by casting Brad Loree in the lead role. No doubt the director was excited to land Loree for the part of Holland because of his past experience playing Michael Myers in one of the zillion Halloween sequels - 2002’s net-crazed Halloween: Resurrection, long considered to be the worst of the slasher franchise. Most of Loree’s background in film comes from his work as a stuntman. He’s taken falls and kicked through walls in over eighty features spanning a quarter-century, from The Journey of Natty Gann to Tron: Legacy. But his acting experience has been relegated to mostly small roles and walk-on parts, and judging by his performance in Mr. Hush I can see why that is. The guy gives the role his all and occasionally comes off naturally charming in the endless dialogue scenes. Only when the time comes for him to believably emote does Loree show his limitations as an actor. His line readings are stiff and he yells so much you’d think it’s because Madison and his star believe that’s how normal people express grief and terror. The actor’s best efforts come off the majority of the time as unintentionally comedic.
Then there’s top-billed Stephen Geoffreys, getting one of his showier roles since his late 80’s heyday as an actor as Stark, the Reinfeld-type slobbering goon sidekick to the titular villain. Geoffreys endeared himself to horror fans for all time in 1985 when he played Evil Ed in the classic modern vampire tale Fright Night (remade last year with McLovin in the Ed role). He’s also done extensive work on film and the Broadway stage so that makes him the most talented actor in the cast. But Mr. Hush does not find Geoffreys at his best. In fact his performance as Stark has so many callbacks to Evil Ed, right down to directly quoting the Fright Night character, that after a while not only does the character become more downright insufferable rather than chilling but you also might find yourself wishing you were watching the original Fright Night. Fortunately Steve Dash, another revered movie actor and stuntman whose best-known credit was playing the hooded Jason in Friday the 13th Part II (Warrington Gillette played the character unmasked and in heavy make-up at the end but was the only one listed in the film’s credits, an egregious oversight that was only rectified in recent years), is around to liven up his few brief scenes with welcome expletive-laden laughs as Holland’s cranky boss. The guy’s voice kept reminding me of the great New York investigative journalist Jimmy Breslin. Edward X. Young, an actor I had never heard of before watching this movie, did nothing to stand out as the murderous Mr. Hush. There was nothing remotely scary or intimidating about the character and Young’s pasty-faced appearance made him look less like a dark force of evil and more like Crazy Joe Davola from the fourth season of “Seinfeld”. Plus the character has way too much dialogue and spends more time spouting out pointless exposition than he does stalking and gutting his victims. Next to Loree Young gives the sorriest performance in the movie.
The rest of the cast do what they can with their underwritten parts. Most are only in the movie to be violently murdered in order to provide Loree with more chances to emote (dear God no…) and provide his character with some motivation to act. Madison’s script doesn’t give him much else to do besides wait around until Mr. Hush strikes again to take some honest action. The pacing and structure are chopped and screwed the moment the movie begins. First we spend ten sluggish minutes in the presence of Holland and his family, then the first murder, and then we get an awkward cut to a weird sequence where the widowed hero goes to the dentist and gets a horrific surprise that turns out to be a nightmare. Holland wakes up and it’s ten years later and he’s living in a tent for some unexplained reason - he mentions having his house taken away after the death of his wife but doesn’t explain how that happened. For the next half-hour we get more incessant scenes of Holland interacting with others and trying to rebuild his life, so when Mr. Hush and Stark strike again near the end of the second act for a moment you may suddenly recall that you were in fact watching what is supposed to be a horror movie. The inane conversations in Mr. Hush had me thinking of what Douglas Adams wrote in the first Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy: “If they don’t keep on exercising their lips, he thought, their brains start working.” A third act revelation involving Holland’s grandparents is positioned to be a major plot twist but at no point during the story is it built up to be anything of importance to the characters or the viewers at home. The same can easily be applied to the movie itself, a staggeringly unexceptional fan wank disguised as a legitimate feature film. Don’t be fooled by the movie’s Blu-ray cover art; that too was a shameful rip-off worthy of litigation. If you doubt that assessment go check out the cover of the beloved 2009 horror anthology Trick ‘r Treat and then tell me I’m full of shit. Go ahead. I’ll wait.
The 2.20:1 widescreen transfer for Mr. Hush is not too bad actually even though it was compressed from its original aspect ration of 2.35:1. The movie was shot on a Red One digital camera and the day scenes look like the production relied on natural light for the interiors, a technical decision that adds a warm texture to the smaller character beats. Unfortunately I can’t heap much praise at all on the English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 and 2.0 tracks; the audio mix is lackluster to say the least with sudden, awkward shifts in volume level for the dialogue and music. Too often I had to crank up the volume on my television just to hear what the characters were saying because it sounded like they were speaking in hushed tones. This is a sound mix that would make Chester Novell Turner burst out in ear-splitting guffaws. No subtitles are provided.
Director Madison and actor Young share a amiable commentary track loaded with production info that is actually a more entertaining use of your time than watching the film without it. Madison also appears in a cheeky 3-minute intro with Clerks star Brian O’Halloran, who has a thankless cameo at the end of the movie. We also get two minutes of unfunny bloopers, an awful music video for the movie by the band “Visitor” that boasts a line-up comprised of the less famous members of Huey Lewis and the News and Creedence Clearwater Revival, and three trailers. The end. Ugh.
Being a huge fan of horror I’ll admit that I looked forward to Mr. Hush at first. But after it’s painful first act I realized that this movie was going to be an embodiment of everything that is wrong with modern horror cinema. It’s a shrill, lunk-headed waste of film that isn’t particularly scary or original in the slightest and accomplishes nothing more than giving its talentless director an excuse to hang out with fright flick has-beens while making us the poor misguided viewers pay a higher psychic price than we ever imagined (thanks to Bill Hicks for that line). If you see copies of Mr. Hush in your local video store alert the authorities as soon as possible. You’ll be doing your fellow horror fans a great service.