A deaf, mute female author lives alone in a fairly secluded house in the woods. A man in a creepy mask shows up, kills her neighbor and terrorizes her.
This seems like a pretty standard home invasion movie, but I gave it a shot because it was directed by Mike Flanagan. I wasn’t overly fond of Absentia, but I loved Oculus so I was looking forward to what Flangan would bring to the table within the home invasion subgenre. He did not disappoint.
Having a deaf, mute protagonist certainly allowed for a fresh take. Some of the standard slasher moves went out the window here. There is a scene where the killer takes his knife and scrapes it against the window. That nails-on-chalkboard effect didn’t faze Maggie. I like to think that the killer had a lot of other tricks up his sleeve that he wasn’t able to use here. “I’ll start clanging some cans together outside…okay, okay. Can’t use that. What about knocking really loudly on the door…nope. Nope nope nope.”
Maggie’s lack of hearing did put the killer at a bit of a disadvantage, although it’s really his own fault. He saw a deaf woman living alone and assumed she would be an easy kill. He toyed with her a little more than he should have. In fact, at one point the killer is in the house with Maggie before she even knows he’s out there, and he doesn’t kill her. He takes his opportunity to get into her head. When he could have been using that opportunity to get into her head…WITH A KNIFE. (I’m so sorry.)
Granted, we don’t really see his method outside of his approach with Maggie, so maybe this is just how he operates with people trapped in their houses, but I got the impression that he was so confident of being able to kill her easily that he wasn’t as careful as he usually would be. “I can come in at any time,” he tells her early on. But he doesn’t. He taunts her. He walks around the house, stalking her in plain sight. He gives Maggie enough time to get over her initial shock and devise a plan. Initially to stay secure and survive, then to escape, and ultimately to fight back.
This is a small movie. If you count the brief FaceTime call with Maggie’s sister, there are only 5 people in the movie, but the majority of the movie involves Maggie and the killer. At 81 minutes, it’s a short movie, but it’s such a small movie that it could easily have become boring in lesser hands. On its face, this movie is simply, “Man walks around house while woman hides inside,” for roughly an hour. But it never really dragged. There were a number of tense moments, but it wasn’t always tense. Even in those down moments, it was never boring.
By the way, the character of the killer is simply “Man” in the credits. I love this. It’s impossible to see things like that and not think of “?” (Frankenstein) or “The Shape” (Halloween). There’s something about an unnamed character in a horror movie that makes me happy.
We also have no idea where the killer came from. We don’t know how long he has been killing. We don’t know why he chose to use a crossbow. We don’t know anything about him, and I really don’t care. I don’t need to know what led him to this point: all I need to know is that he wants to kill.
I had a few issues, but they’re nit-picky ones. The killer wears a creepy mask in the beginning, but he gets rid of it 15 minutes in. There’s a good reason for this, and the actor did a good job, but I wish we would have seen that mask for a little while longer.
During a call with her sister, Maggie says (well, signs) that she has “writer’s brain.” Basically, when she writes, she looks at every situation and sees how it could possibly end. Kind of like Choose Your Own Adventure. Because of this, she has a hard time finishing her books, because she can’t stop writing alternate endings. They play with this a bit towards the end of the movie, and it’s one of my favorite scenes. I wish they would have done this a little more throughout the movie. Perhaps more liberal use would lead to it not being as effective, but I would have liked to have seen this used a little more than it was.
Notable actors: Michael Trucco