Director: Farren Blackburn
Starring: Naomie Watts, Oliver Platt, Charlie Heaton, Jacob Tremblay, Crystal Balint, Alex Braunstein, David Cubitt
Written by: Christina Hodson
Running Time: 91 mins
Release date: 24th February 2017
Shut In follows a long line of thrillers that use being trapped or locked in a building as a backdrop for scares, jumps and tension. With such a well-used premise, you have to deliver either something really different or you have to up the ante by making the audience literally chew their nails down to the fingers. This film fails to do either. Instead, we get a wasted cast working with a terrible script and a plot that makes you spend most of the time scratching your head than gripping the armrest of your seat.
Widowed child psychologist, Mary Portman, lives in an isolated part of New England, where she looks after her catatonic stepson, Stephen, and holds her surgery for her patients. One patient, Tom, a deaf child, is being taken away from her by her mother as she feels there’s very little progress in Tom’s violent attitude. As the snow comes in, leaving Mary more isolated, she discovers Tom has disappeared and is believed dead. She then starts seeing images of the boy in her home, which is slowly driving her crazy.
Usually, when I am writing a review I try to find some good among the bad. I am struggling here because this is a mess in every sense of the word. This is a film that has greater ambitions than it could ever deliver. It wants to be bigger, scarier and better than any of the previous shut in style thrillers, with The Shining as its central aim. The problem is the script is so baggy, so bizarre and far too complex for anyone to even see the connections.
It is full of contrivances. For example, why would a child psychologist live in a house miles away from anyone and expect patients to visit her? She only lives there so she can be Shut In! How is it possible that her stepson, who seems to need constant attention, is allowed to live in a house miles away? I won’t even mention why because it would be a huge plot spoiler.These things go on and on throughout the film that you spend more time asking why instead of just allowing it to wash over you. Add to that the terrible dialogue.
Then there are the scares. Director Farren Blackburn, who has spent a long time directing British TV shows and works on the likes of Daredevil and the new Iron Fist production, finds it hard to build up any real tension. We have the dark, shadowy rooms and the noises in the basements but we’ve been here so often that you become immune. The actual jumps also seem to be telegraphed way in advance that when we get the quiet, quiet, LOUD moments, they don’t have any real effect.
The real crime is the casting. Naomie Watts, whose career did take a battering after Diana, hasn’t really managed to find the recovery role that can show the world she is a fine actress. This is her first lead in a while and sadly, this comes in at a Diana level. She desperately tries to make us emote with her character and there are flashes when you do feel some sympathy for her past but the script doesn’t allow her any room, instead you find yourself saying “Did she really say that?”. The biggest crime is Jacob Tremblay, the young boy is amazed us in Room. This is a real talent who should have won an Oscar, yet here he is cast as the deaf child who doesn’t speak! Then he only pops up throughout the film in short bursts! If you got something that good, use them!
Shut In is a film that should have gone directly to DVD instead of taking up time in the cinemas. It is poorly written, badly executed and a waste of anyone’s time. If you want a tense, trapped in a house movie, then there are plenty around but this is not one of them.