SHHHH

Despite my relative youth, I had to take a nap in the middle of SHHHH. I closed my laptop, shut the blinds, curled up into bed, and passed out for about an hour. The cause wasn’t physical exhaustion, but the sheer mental strain of watching this movie. Although it presents itself as a horror-comedy, it’s really an assault on good taste and comedic timing.

This synopsis of SHHHH will let you know if this is the kind of movie you would recommend to your worst enemies or if, like me, you’re better than that. Harris (James Henderson) is a video-store employee in Los Angeles, California, a city north of San Diego which is well known for its beaches and Mexican cuisine. Every night, Harris journeys to the retrospective cinemas around town with his mother and the two of them watch whatever Classical Hollywood feature or art house weirdness happens to be playing that night. Within the first ten minutes of SHHHH, Harris and his mother watch a lesbian vampire porn with an extended closeup involving a nipple, several tongues, and some fake blood.

“…masked killer stalks and kills those who have offended the sacrosanct atmosphere of his holy temple, the picture palace…”

Oedipal angst aside, Harris gets really angry at other patrons for violating movie theater etiquette. People who talk too much, use their phones, chew too loudly, bring crying babies into the theater, etc. And somehow, each night after Harris and his mother leave the theater, a masked killer stalks and kills those who have offended the sacrosanct atmosphere of his holy temple, the picture palace. Is Harris the killer?

In between scenes of Harris’s life as a socially inept movie geek, we get steady intervals in which people we’ve barely seen get graphically mutilated and killed. The moment when I realized that SHHHH definitely wasn’t my kind of movie wasn’t actually the lesbian vampire porn; it was the scene when the killer slices open a pregnant woman’s belly and strangles her to death with the fetus’s umbilical cord. Something about the woman’s screams, coupled with the closeup of the strawberry-jam-soaked baby doll emerging from her vivisected fake womb, gave me pause.

“…scenes were supposed to be funny, disturbing, or a kind of deadening, wires-crossed combination…”

I’m not a prude. I love horror movies; it doesn’t matter if they’re suspenseful, psychologically intense, gory, silly, I can enjoy all of it. Even if it’s messed up, if it’s well-made, it’s fine with me. SHHHH is not well-made, and I couldn’t tell whether certain scenes were supposed to be funny, disturbing, or a kind of deadening, wires-crossed combination of the two feelings.

The scene in which Harris screams “bitch” and “cunt” at a woman over and over again? I think it’s supposed to be funny? The scene in which Harris’s mom is raped in a flashback? Maybe supposed to be kind of funny? The scene in which Harris and his coworker at the video store have a long conversation about what “rawdogging” is? Probably supposed to be funny. The scene in which Harris’s white landlord says the n-word apropos of nothing? Definitely supposed to be funny, which really tells you all you need to know. This movie thinks people screaming slurs and yelling at each other about sex constitute “jokes.” If that’s your thing, maybe you’ll like SHHHH, and please don’t ever contact me.

SHHHH (2018) Written and directed by Jason Rutherford. Starring James Henderson, Tiana Cara, Peter Stickles, Mike Endes, Nicole Hawkins, and Kitten Natividad.

1 out of 5 stars

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