Even in the world of bad movies, there are rules of engagement. Bad like Showgirls bad can be enjoyable. Bad like Hush (TriStar) bad is just depressing, a grim chore: When you watch this failed horror thriller — which has been under studio doctors’ care for some two years, undergoing futile title changes and reshoots — there’s no respite from the odor of flop sweat stinking up the screen. Worse, that whiff is coming from Gwyneth Paltrow and Jessica Lange!
As a psycho mommie-in-law dearest, Jessica Lange, unsteadily directed by newcomer Jonathan Darby, wears a drink in one hand and a cigarette in the other. (She also wears a crucifix around her neck — a tired old sign of impending lunacy that has never looked so cheap or gratuitous.) She’s a widowed horse breeder who presides over a verdant Southern estate, and when her darling son (Peter Gallagher lite Johnathon Schaech) brings a girl (Paltrow) home for Christmas, Mom is clearly not right in the head about it. Pretty soon, Girlfriend becomes accidentally pregnant (thanks to some diaphragm tampering by Mom — and hey, isn’t that a felony in most states?), the couple marry, and suffice to say, Mom displays inordinate interest in the breeding of a human grandson.
I can sort of understand what Paltrow was doing, galumphing around in maternity wear and worrying about the mental health of her in-law: She’s young and still green; this was shot before Great Expectations, etc. (Hush is so crudely patched and repatched, in an I give up! kind of way, that sometimes she’s more pregnant than others, sometimes her hair is more wiglike than others, sometimes adjacent scenes appear to have been shot in different countries.) But it’s deeply dismaying to see Lange struggling with Faye Dunaway material, selling out her effective, trademark bleary earthiness so cheaply and settling instead for such camp hooey. In one scene meant to spook, the evil mother-in-law creeps toward the sleeping daughter-in-law, brandishing a deadly syringe. But the only thing in Hush that’s really scary is the desperation in the air. D-