To give you a general idea, the movie follows a young woman Maddie that lives by herself in the woods. She's deaf, and is working on her second novel. One of her friends is attacked outside and the man outside realizes that Maddie is deaf. He now has his next target.
The “Home Invader” concept in horror movies is overdone – I’ve covered this once or twice and spoke about my love for movies like You’re Next, and The Strangers (again, in the Don’t Breathe post. Maybe these movies should be a 1-2 punch for you and you can finish it off with the excellent 1967 Wait Until Dark). Here, the concept of Maddie’s deafness makes it different and fresh – and it’s the technical achievements of this movie that really shine through.
From the opening scene, Maddie is cooking a meal. We are treated to loud, emphasized sounds of her chopping, stirring, and performing everyday processes. Even her I-Phone message notification is louder than normal… that is, until we are treated with a taste of what her deafness is like. All the sound is stripped away, and we are left with the empty sound of nothing. It’s moments like these that are spread out strategically through the movie, and the silence is deafening in its own way. After one of those moments, the silence is often broken with a strategically placed loud sound. The camerawork and the editing of the movie emphasize these differences, often going from slow tracked shots to frenzied movement shots.
This is punctuated by two terrific performances by the actors. The first one is by Kate Siegel (who plays Maddie) and the second is John Gallagher Jr. who plays the man who attacks her. Both are terrific. Siegel says almost nothing throughout the movie (she’s mute after all), but through some sparse ASL and a myriad of expressions, she portrays more than some actors who use their voices to portray other emotions. Gallagher also is terrific, dancing the line between terrifying and oddly charming. It’s their chemistry that make a lot of the cat and mouse believable, and I really believed every interaction they had.
The fear in this movie comes from the inability to track the killer in our typical manner – sound. One thing that struck me was how difficult it would be to hide from someone when you can’t hear your breathing, you can’t hear someone sneaking up, you can’t hear objects shifting as you brush them… that is terrifying, and Gallagher truly sells the fact that someone could take advantage of this. The initial photos of Maddie just walking around… yikes.
I also want to highlight the mask. The sculptor was obviously influenced by the famous Michael Meyers mask, but they made it their own, because they added the contours and the slight smile. The smile makes the mask – it sells the terror you feel when it first looks into the window (and it matches Gallagher’s face too).
"All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy"