UK Release Date: 10th April 2017
Runtime: 89 minutes
Director: Farren Blackburn
Writer: Christina Hodson
Starring: Naomi Watts, Jacob Tremblay, Charlie Heaton, Oliver Platt, David Cubitt, Peter Outerbridge
Synopsis: A mother caring for her severely disabled son becomes close with one of the children she treats as a psychologist, but begins to experience nightmares when the child disappears during a blizzard.
Any horror movie that has a slight hook and a character focus is immediately pushed as far away from its genre as possible and defined as a psychological thriller. That has certainly happened with Shut In, which has been marketed as something sharp and psychological, despite the fact it consists largely of jump scares and Naomi Watts bumping around in the dark. Many of the problems with this rather misguided attempt at a sophisticated chiller come from the fact it seems unwilling to embrace the fact that it’s a trashy horror movie with an utterly ludicrous plot twist at its heart.
Mary (Watts) is rocked after a car accident leaves her husband dead and her son Steven (Charlie Heaton) paralysed, mute and almost completely comatose. She meets troubled deaf child Tom (Jacob Tremblay) through her work as a psychologist and forms a close bond with him, until he disappears one day and sparks a nationwide search effort. Weeks later, just about everyone believes Tom is dead, but Mary is sure she keeps seeing him everywhere. Her physician Doctor Wilson (Oliver Platt) thinks she is merely experiencing nightmares due to stress and tells her she has nothing to worry about.
Shut In is not so much a bad film as it is a woefully missed opportunity. The script, from Christina Hodson, appeared on the Black List a few years back and there’s certainly plenty of potential lurking within the story and its twists and turns. Unfortunately, Doctor Who director Farren Blackburn‘s film lacks the finesse and class that is needed to carry off the premise. This should have the slick chills of a film like Oculus, but it instead emerges as something more akin to the bargain bin trash of The Boy Next Door.
That’s not to say that there isn’t anything genuinely horrifying in this film. Shut In boasts some very effective jump scares and sequences of creeping dread, especially immediately before the shocking twist that sets the wheels of the third act into motion. It’s a twist that initially seems to open a whole new corner of the movie, but actually gives way to a bloated finale. Blackburn does a stellar job of creating tension, but that’s all undone by the grotesquely stupid final third, which amounts to lots of hammy evil gurning and people being bopped on the head with frying pans. It’s like a haunted house horror movie by way of a Tom & Jerry cartoon.
Naomi Watts does a decent enough job in the lead role, but is given almost nothing to work with in creating an actual character around the grief-stricken child psychologist she portrays. Charlie Heaton appears to have been selected because Dane DeHaan was busy and Jacob Tremblay is shockingly underused given the remarkable range and emotion he was able to portray in his breakout part in Room. Shut In is not a film that rewards its actors with dense parts, as they’re all mere devices to keep the plot moving along.
For everything that works in Shut In, there’s always a frustrating creative decision or an exposition-heavy scene to force you into forgetting the strong points of the film. This was a delicious premise that could have been transformed into a glossy thriller with real scare potential, but it’s instead a paint-by-numbers horror movie that never mines satisfying thrills from its major plot twist. By the time it has delivered its hundredth overt homage to The Shining, the film has well and truly become lost in a hedge maze of its own making.
None available, but I can’t say I needed more from Shut In anyway.
Pop or Poop?
Naomi Watts and Jacob Tremblay make the most of under-written roles in the self-consciously arty horror movie Shut In, which squanders its potential in search of the trashy thrills of an airport paperback. There are some great scare sequences and a nicely executed twist, but it sputters out after that and rather dramatically falls apart.
Do you agree with my review? Let me know in the comments section.
Shut In is available on Blu-ray and DVD in the UK now, courtesy of Arrow Films.