Hush

1998, Movie, PG-13, 100 mins

Review

HUSH
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Mother knows best, dammit!: This trashy, overwrought thriller gets itself worked up into a fine, sleazy lather that recalls the matricidal glories DIE! DIE! MY DARLING! and YOU'LL LIKE MY MOTHER, then wimps out at the end. Completed in 1996, it has been shuffled from release date to release date, which seldom bodes well. Orphaned Helen (Gwyneth Paltrow), who secretly longs for the security of a family, finds herself pregnant by handsome boyfriend Jackson (Johnathon Schaech) immediately after their first visit to Kilronan, his family's vast Kentucky horse farm. Brushing away any potential suspicions -- did patrician mom Martha (Jessica Lange) really have to mess about with Helen's diaphragm when she was cleaning the bathroom?-- the young couple get married and return to Kentucky to help Martha spruce up Kilronan, ostensibly so it can be sold. But it soon becomes apparent that Martha is a bona fide man-eating mama who's not about to let some pallid, big-city chippie steal away her precious son: She drops insidious hints designed to undermine their relationship, whispers around that Helen's a frail little thing having a tough pregnancy, and gradually asserts the iron-fisted will beneath her belle of the barn veneer. It's not hard to see where all this is going, especially after Helen makes the acquaintance of Jackson's paternal grandmother (Nina Foch), whose reminiscences suggest that Martha is a psycho tramp who may well have murdered her husband when she learned that he was leaving her. In addition to its message about the dangers of mother love that borders on the incestuous, this film, like last year's THE LOCUSTS, seems to warn that too thorough a knowledge of animal husbandry turns women into castrating harpies, no doubt useful information for young men thinking of marrying country girls. leave a comment --Maitland McDonagh

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