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I'm most distracting by the non-horror parts of "Hush" (2016)

Hush is a mostly effective horror thriller about a deaf writer who is being stalked in and around her isolated cabin in the woods by a sadistic killer.  It's one of several movies being released back-to-back-to-back by writer-director / former Marylander Mike Flanagan, whose previous film Oculus scared the everloving crap out of me.

There are plenty of positive things I can say about it.  All the technical aspects are stellar - the cinematography, editing, lighting, etc. are crisp.  The acting is solid.  The blood effects are gut-wrenching, but not overly gory.  It's paced well and the heavy moments hit hard.

There are a few quibbles I have with it.  While the premise has a lot of potential, it doesn't ultimately pay off in a way that lends to the horror.  I never felt the vulnerability of deafness, like, "Oh, my God!  I'm evacuating my bowels in terror because she can't hear this guy sneaking up on her!"  It was always more like, "Oh, by the way, she's deaf."

Sure, you can argue that this makes the film empowering to the deaf, since the writer is capable of defending herself and is portrayed as just an ordinary person - but frankly, if you're putting that kind of thing in a movie and seeding it as a possible weakness, you're already exploiting it.  So, just go for it.  Make it part and parcel of the horror.

Regardless, those are all minor conversation points.  It stands up well as a tidy, confined little horror flick... and the only thing I'm obsessing about is how the writer writes.

She has a conversation with her neighbor early on about her "writer's brain," which lets her see every possible ending to a situation.  This, in turn, inspires her to craft her novels and tell a tale.

I won't dispute that the ability to see potential arcs and resolutions is a useful tool for a storyteller, but then the movie shows this in action: the writer has an unfinished book with at least seven different endings that she's currently working on, and she can't figure out which one to use.


Now, look, I know that there's no single way to write a book, and whatever method you use is fine as long as it works for you.  So, no judgment in that regard.  You do whatever you gotta do. But if you're trying to tell me that you've got 90% of your book done, and it's all great and perfect and taken care of, and the only part that's bothering you is that you have seven different versions of the last 10% that are all equally good, then making a choice is the least of your problems.

Good stories simply cannot have interchangeable endings.  The whole point of an ending is that it's the thing everything you're writing is building up to.  If you can just swap it all out at the last minute with no consequence, then what the hell is the point of the first 300 pages?

Now, I can believe that there may be some ambiguity about specific details.  Like, maybe your book is an angsty YA dystopian story, and you know that it's going to end with the young attractive white people storming the Bad Guy Compound, and you know that Main Bad Guy is going to escape, but Scary Bad Guy is going to die, and the thing you don't know is how specifically SBG is going to bite it.  You might be grappling with that for awhile.  Maybe you're wrestling with whether or not the protagonist should kill him, because on the one hand it would be bad-ass, but on the other hand it's thematically murky since you've been trying to weave in an anti-violence arc.  Maybe you're just not sure of the logistics.  Fine - I'll grant you that in that kind of situation, you might have a legitimate dilemma on your hands.

But even in that case, you're not debating between different endings.  You're debating between different variations on the same ending.  The basic structure is still there.  And frankly, even in this example, you're going to have to go back and revisit some of the stuff that came before to make sure it pays off.

The writer in Hush has entirely different chapters that she sorts through - she's actually written all her endings and is in the process of writing new ones.  You simply can't do that and still have a quality book on your hands.  Just try and picture how that would work with any literature classic.  ("Well, the original ending was for Huck Finn to run away and join the Union Army while Jim was hanged, but I decided that might be too sad, so I changed it at the last minute.")

I realize how much of a lunatic this diatribe makes me sound like - especially because I was basically thinking all of this when the killer took out his first victim and I had to remind myself, "Oh, hey, somebody's getting butchered now and it's tragic.  Pay attention, dummy."  I guess some things push my buttons more than others.  Weird writing habits are more horrifying to me than brutal murder, apparently.