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Have you ever used a motorway station toilet and seen those little posters, usually smeared in gum and snot, advertising everything from cars to condoms? Well it’s somebody’s job to do that and that person, in the new British thriller Hush, is Zakes.

It’s early evening, and Zakes (William Ash, last seen in the Doctor Who episode, 42) has only two more stations to finish before he and his girlfriend Beth (The Streets actress Christine Bottomley) can call it quits and head home. Problem is, things ain’t cool between them. In fact, Beth is trying desperately to find a reason to leave him – especially as she’s been sleeping with someone else.

When Zakes catches a glimpse of a woman caged and screaming in the back of a truck he narrowly avoids crashing into, Beth finds her reason. When Zakes heads to his final service station rather than flag down a nearby cop car, Beth becomes so enraged she decides to call a friend to collect her.

But when she goes missing at the station, Zakes fears she has suffered the same fate as the woman in the truck and begins a frantic search. What follows is a brutal and bloody chase along a rain-soaked motorway as Zakes finds himself handcuffed, beaten, nailed to a floor and drenched in lots of water – all in a bid to get Beth back.

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Inspired by Hitchcock’s North By Northwest, with overtones of the 1993 abduction thriller, The Vanishing, and a nod to Spielberg’s Duel, Mark Tonderai’s debut feature is a masterful first effort. The setting, the M1 bathed in unforgiving streetlight and heavy showers, is suitably claustrophobic; the film’s lead, William Ash, is perfectly cast as everyday loser Zakes, whose night of terror causes him to experience the full gamut of emotions – from frustration to fear, and finally rage; and the script – also written by former Radio One DJ Tonderai – is very clear in its intentions: how far will you go to save the one you love?

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Gripping from beginning to end, Hush is a uniquely British affair that’s a world away from the tongue-in-cheek chillers of most American imports. The violence maybe vicious and ultra-realistic, but it’s low on gory spectacles. The movie’s big villain, a hoodie-wearing, muscled trucker whose face you never see, may come across like another murderous Jason Voorhees or Michael Myers, but this is very much Zake’s story and so the menacing mute abductor stays very much on the sidelines. Until the end – of course. But I’m not giving anything away.

Any couple in the dying stages of a relationship should catch this heart-pounder – it might just might make you think again about breaking up. Oh! And you’ll never want to use a motorway again.

Released 13 March 2009

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