Thursday, May 28, 2009

Mark Tonderai's HUSH: a nifty little On-Demand must-see from IFC

Having now sampled a dozen or so On-Demand films from IFC's Festival Direct, In-Theater and Midnight Movies categories, I've finally seen one that I can recommend without a single reservation: HUSH, written and directed by actor-turned-writer-and-now-director Mark Tonderai -- who, with this first film, manages to do just about everything right.

Hush is a chase thriller that begins on one of those boring British motorways, in a car in which a young couple argues. You may be be put briefly in mind of the recent Claude Lelouch Roman de Gare, but no -- this movie is something else. Shortly after it begins, the male of the duo -- he's driving -- suddenly sees something in the back of a truck directly ahead of him. The movie takes off from there, dishing up a parade of shock, suspense and surprise until its speedy 90 minutes are beautifully played out.

Tonderai creates surprisingly full characters -- even those given the smallest roles -- and this is particularly true of his "hero," who begin the movie as anything but and by the end has earned that over-used term as well as any other hero I've seen in a this kind of genre film. (Novice movie-makers take note: creating rich characters -- often just a specific little stroke or two can do it all -- helps immensely in making a more believable film.) Tonderai keeps us viewers off balance in very smart ways: He consistently has us questioning who will help our hero and who will not, who is chasing whom and when, and best of all, he sets his entire movie at night (the fine cinematography is by Philipp Blaubach).

As in so many good thrillers, time is of the essence, so we speed along with the hero, able to keep maybe a step ahead of him -- but only that. The director gets a terrific performance from his leading actor, William Ash (above), a fellow we're sure to be seeing more of soon. Ash is pretty much the film's whole focus and he holds the screen securely, growing from a typically self-involved male to a man who must rise to a very difficult occasion. Ash is abetted by two nicely differentiated women: Christine Bottomley (below) as his blond girlfriend and Claire Keelan, a brunette who makes a startling appearance halfway along.

For a film that deals in some pretty horrible goings-on, Hush is not terribly gory. There is one shocking scene -- and it's a humdinger -- done so excruciatingly well that you'll simultaneously cringe and take delight in how Tonderai seems to know just what to show and what to leave to our imagination. His pacing is expert: No scene goes on too long and the suspense simply builds and builds. In every way, Hush is a "B" movie -- but it burnishes that often tired genre about as brightly as I've seen it shine in some time.

Nationwide, you can see view Hush now though July 7, '09 via IFC On-Demand on the following cable systems:
BrightHouse: Movies On Demand - IFC In Theaters
Cablevision: Movies On Demand - IFC In Theaters - Festival Direct
Comcast: Channel 1 - Movies & Events - IFC Festival Direct
Cox: Channel 1 - Movies On Demand - IFC In Theaters
Time Warner: Movies On Demand - IFC In Theaters

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