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20th Jul 09
A couple driving on the motorway spot a caged woman in the back of a truck and report it to the police, but then things get complicated...
There are few cinematic thriller conventions more effective and compelling than a good old fashioned game of cat and mouse on the open road. This is obviously a notion that had occurred to debutant writer/director Mark Tonderai, who has fashioned a brutally effective slice of road terror with Hush. What’s more, this is a welcome home-grown exercise which utilises grimly familiar stretches of the M1, rather than the deserted stretches of road in the more traditional horror road movie location of the good old US – a factor that makes this sort of movie experience all the more unsettling.
Mancunian couple Zakes (William Ash) and Beth (Christine Bottomley) are driving on the M1 at night, occasionally stopping to distribute posters at the motorway services. Both are tired and argumentative as a consequence, which would partly explain why Zakes veers slightly off the road at one point, antagonising the truck driver behind them. When the truck overtakes the couple, the back door of the truck opens and then closes again, but it was open long enough for Zakes to witness what was inside: a screaming, naked woman in a cage.
The couple report what Zakes believes he has seen to the police via cell phone, and rather than following the truck, Zakes considers his duty done and promptly pulls in at the nearest services centre to distribute more posters. Domestic tensions rise further, and Beth decides to finish with Zakes and head back to Manchester. When she goes to call her friend, Zekes waits outside in the car, which is when he spots that truck, and this being a nail-biting affair, he decides to investigate the empty cabin. Following an alarmingly close shave with the mysterious hooded driver, he sprints back into the Services to search for Beth, but she is nowhere to be seen. To make matters worse, a group of thugs puncture his tyres in the forecourt, forcing him to steal a Granada to pursue the truck he believes is now carrying his girlfriend.
BBC Radio 1 DJ Mark Tonderai has proved his mettle with this solid suspense thriller. Using a microscopic cast and the brooding menace of the deserted motorway surroundings, he has gone full throttle on the fear accelorator and in the process produced some moments of massive tension – exactly the type of moments that make a movie of this type work.
Set entirely during the hours of darkness, the almost constant handheld camera follows Zakes as his survival instincts kick into gear. For a normal guy thrown into this world of shit, he copes unbelievably well, and manages to think of all those things you or I probably never would. William Ash’s solid performance carries us through an evening of hell as he searches for the truth behind this truck-driving woman thief, and although it takes some time to warm to him, we have little alternative when this tightly wound tale reaches the halfway mark.
Obviously this isn't the first time a road thriller has hit our screens; it's a sub-genre which kicked off with Spielberg's brilliant 1971 TV movie Duel, and has been the canvas for many a finely tuned thriller since that time, most notably with Richard Franklin's under appreciated Aussie thriller Road Games. Perhaps owing to this familiarity audiences have with such movies, first-time writer/director Mark Tonderai has chosen to subvert many clichés and associated conventions, throwing in a few real twisty moments of surprise and shock - the type that are really hard to see coming. And he continues this approach right up until the final reel which, for all its effectiveness, does feel a little abrupt.
Hush shows great promise, especially from Tonderai and William Ash’s tortured performance as Zakes. If this is the sort of thing Tonderai can achieve on a micro budget, then perhaps he’s a directing talent to be taken notice of and given opportunities with more capital behind them. Intensely enjoyable stuff.
Hush is released on DVD and Blu Ray on 20th June 2009