Magazine article Screen International

Mike Flanagan and Trevor Macy, 'Hush'

Magazine article Screen International

Mike Flanagan and Trevor Macy, 'Hush'

Article excerpt

Director Mike Flanagan and producer and Intrepid Pictures principal Trevor Macy talk to Jeremy Kay about their latest horror film and Netflix acquisition ahead of its world premiere at SXSW on Saturday.

Intrepid and Blumhouse Pictures co-financed and produced the story of a deaf-mute woman alone in a remote house who is terrorised by a man.

Kate Siegel stars and co-wrote the screenplay with Flanagan. It was announced on Thursday that Netflix had acquired global streaming rights and will launch the film on April 8. WME Global represented the film-makers in the deal.

Firstly, sound is so important in horror/thrillers, so talk a bit about what you wanted to achieve, especially given that the lead character is deaf-mute.

Mike Flanagan: We knew from the beginning that sound design would be have to be a full-blown character in this film. There is so little dialogue; it forces the sound design to carry huge stretches of the movie without support. People take sound for granted. Generally speaking, it's meant to be designed and mixed in such a way that it enhances the story without drawing attention to itself. We wanted to do the opposite. We wanted to take the sounds people generally process on a subconscious level (ambiance, footsteps, room tone, crickets) and bring them right into the foreground.

I wanted the viewer to feel immersed in a symphony of sound design one moment, but experience the film through Maddie's perspective in the next; to make them acutely aware of sound, and then acutely aware of its absence. That meant creating a series of sounds that would imply the experience of a deaf character. If we had simply removed the sound entirely, it would have backfired on us, as the audience would suddenly be listening intently to the sounds they were making. So we needed to create a soundscape that gave the audience the impression of a soundless world, but without forcing them to focus on the chair-shifting, or popcorn crunching, or things like that.

Going back and forth between these two audio perspectives was incredibly challenging, and it became clear when we finally got into the final mix that Jonathan Wales and his team at Sonic Magic had created an auditory experience unlike anything else I'd ever heard in a movie theatre. I only wish more people could experience the sound design of this film theatrically; it's bound to lose something in a home viewing.

Making Maddie deaf-mute must have presented interesting choices. Can you take us through some of the opportunities and pitfalls a character like Maddie presents?

MF: The opportunities are truly exciting - here is this character who experiences the world differently, and has adapted. It gave us a lot of opportunity to create suspense, as we'd be able to perceive threats to her safety that Maddie herself would be oblivious to. It also meant that we had a character who was intuitive and adaptable, and has experience rising above challenges.

The biggest pitfall was that it removed a major facet of the character that audiences rely on - dialogue. So often in films, characters express how they feel and what they're thinking with words, and we didn't have that option. That meant we had to rely almost entirely on visual storytelling, and it put a great deal of pressure on the visual style of the film, as well as Kate's performance. She had to gain the audience's sympathy non-verbally. To convey such a rich character using only her facial expressions and body language is an amazing achievement, from an acting perspective.

Where did the idea for the story come from and can you tip us on some of the reference points that you had in mind?

MF: Kate and I were out to dinner one night, talking about ideas for thrillers, and both expressed a lot of love for Wait Until Dark [the 1967 film in which Audrey Hepburn plays a blind woman terrorised by home invaders.] I'd been impressed and inspired by several episodes of television that had foregone the spoken word (Battleground from Stephen King's Nightmares And Dreamscapes, and Joss Whedon's brilliant episode of Buffy, also called Hush, come to mind. …

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