Eric's Bad Movies: 'Mr. Hush'

If all I did was tell you what happens in "Mr. Hush," you might think it was a profoundly unsettling horror film in which the main character endures awful torment and heartbreak. You might think there was no way you could subject yourself to such a grueling experience. Fortunately, "Mr. Hush" is executed with such comical ineptitude that none of the protagonist's torment feels authentic, let alone troubling. It's actually a fairly insulting disservice to all the real people whose wives and girlfriends have been murdered by vampires.

I was initially reluctant to make fun of "Mr. Hush" because I assumed from watching it that it was made by an illiterate child who had never seen a movie before, starring people who were not actors, using a camera that was really just a cardboard box with a lens taped to it. The performances are especially ludicrous. Every line sounds like the actors are reading it for the first time, as if the audio was recorded at the table read. But it turns out most of them ARE actors. They have been in other movies and television shows! And the writer-director, David Lee Madison, is a grown man who can read. So game on.

We meet Holland Price (Brad Loree), his wife, Julie (Jessica Cameron), and their young daughter, Amy (Megan Heckman), at a time of great domestic tranquility. They have pleasant family interactions from a template the filmmaker copied out of a screenwriting textbook, with details inserted to provide exposition. "Are you looking forward to [upcoming event]?" "Yes, I am! It always reminds me of [event from my past]." That sort of thing. The Prices are very happy together, united by their shared inability to recite basic, mundane dialogue in a manner that resembles human speech. The wife, in particular, looks like January Jones yet is somehow a worse actress, even though that is not possible.

On Halloween night, a priest (Edward X. Young) shows up at the Price home asking to use the phone. The priest has the least convincing Irish accent ever recorded, and is clearly not a priest but a psycho killer. Anyone dumb enough to let him into their house deserves to be murdered. Sure enough, the priest slits Julie's throat right in front of Holland -- which should be dreadful but is instead hilarious thanks to the clumsy staging and over-the-top acting. It's a powerful reminder that the line separating tragedy from comedy is so thin it can be snapped by one actor shrieking "Noooooooooo!" at the top of his lungs.

The killer says "what's left of" Holland's daughter is upstairs, so he rushes into her room and cries "Nooooooooo!" again. (Conservative estimates put the number of times he cries "Nooooooooo!" in this movie at approximately 45,000.) Presumably poor li'l Amy is dead, though the movie has the decency not to show her body, just Holland collapsing on her bed in grief. Bonus point for you, movie!

Then it is 10 years later. Holland is now a restaurant dishwasher who lives in a tent in the woods with his buddy Donald (Tim Dougherty). No explanation is given for the unorthodox living situation; we are left to infer that Holland was so devastated by the loss of his family that he can no longer bear to live indoors. He has grown a wig of long, silver hair that hangs over his face. He looks like Alec Baldwin playing a burned-out hippie in a "Saturday Night Live" sketch.

There is a nice waitress at the restaurant named Debbie (Connie Giordano). It seems possible that Holland and Debbie will have a romance. Holland and Donald have this conversation about it:

DONALD: Maybe some things are just meant to be.

HOLLAND: What's meant to be?

DONALD: You two bein' together.

HOLLAND: Hey, s***-for-brains. My wife was murdered. Was that 'meant to be'?

DONALD: Yeah, I'm sorry. It just breaks my heart seeing you sad and suffering all the time. You know, I had a wife once, too. She was the love of MY life. One night she comes home, tells me she has a headache. Give her a couple aspirin, made her a cup of tea, rubbed her head till she went to sleep. Yeah, she didn't wake up in the morning. No one stole her from me, but she's gone just the same.

HOLLAND: (handing him a beer) Sorry, man.

In other words, "You're not the only one with a dead wife, JERK!" But Holland remains surly, with a real chip on his shoulder over his family being murdered.

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Nonetheless, he starts warming up to Debbie, and he reveals his tragic history to her. "On Halloween night, I opened the door of our house to a lunatic," he begins. Then he recounts the entire incident. The movie makes us listen to his whole speech, as if having seen the events with our own eyes weren't enough. ("Remember when this happened??" the movie seems to say. "From 20 minutes ago?? REMEMBER???") He ends with, "I never spoke of this to anyone," which we know isn't true because he told Donald, and presumably the police. David Lee Madison probably heard somebody say "I never spoke of this to anyone" in a movie once and thought it sounded very dramatic, so he included it in his own movie even though it didn't fit.

Speaking of people not being good at what they do, it is only here that we learn a crucial detail of the earlier incident: li'l Amy wasn't killed; she was just GONE, taken, missing. Holland has been searching for her ever since. We assumed she was dead because the murderer basically said as much, and because Madison didn't give us a full view of her bedroom when Holland rushed upstairs to rescue her. Remember how we thought the movie was being tasteful? No, it was just being incompetent. Bonus point revoked.

Holland and Debbie start dating, and what happens next is impossible not to laugh at. I'm sorry, but it is. One night the doorbell rings, Debbie goes to answer it, and the SAME GUY is there to slit her throat, right in front of Holland. It has happened again. Here we are reminded of the old adage: "Slit my wife or girlfriend's throat in front of me once, shame on you. Slit my wife or girlfriend's throat in front of me twice, shame on me."

Obviously, the killer is a vampire who has sworn vengeance on Holland's bloodline because his grandfather accidentally killed the vampire's wife in 1930. You know how it goes. The film's interminable second half has him in full vampire mode (including fake teeth that give the actor a lisp), taunting Holland and Debbie's teenage daughter, whom he has tied up in his vampire basement. Upstairs, Holland's daughter Amy is still alive, don't ask me why. I guess the vampire figured if he REALLY wanted to make Holland suffer, he should abduct his daughter but not kill her, but not tell him she's still alive either, and never let him see her again, and now that I think about it, I can't think of a way that it makes sense, so never mind.

Tied to a pillar in the basement, Holland's primary self-defense tactic is to scream vulgar insults at the vampire. We get the full brunt of this because the film's sound mix is terrible, and every time Holland yells -- which is often -- it sounds like he's screaming directly into a microphone. Do you like a movie that periodically assaults you with deafening roars, and that is amateurish and boring when it's not causing eardrum damage? Then this is the movie for you, weirdo.