Directed by: Farren Blackburn
Starring: Naomi Watts, Oliver Platt, Charlie Heaton, Jacob Tremblay
Mary Portman is a recently widowed child psychologist who juggles her time looking after her young patients and providing personal nursing care to her teenage son, left paralysed and unresponsive since the accident which also killed her husband.
When one of her young patients goes missing, Mary finds herself obsessing about finding him. At the same time, she starts to experience strange things happening in the house - but are they just figments of her over-stressed imagination?
Shut In is fairly typical of the "spooky normal house" genre of horror films, but it does manage to provide some unsettling moments and has a twist which, while different, just defies anyone's ability to suspend belief.
Naomi Watts stars as Mary, who's son, Stephen, was suffering from anger issues. So much so, in fact, that Mary and her husband had come to the conclusion to send Stephen to a boarding school where they might be able to help him. Unfortunately, tragedy strikes when their car is hit by an oncoming lorry, leaving her husband dead and Stephen as a paralysed catatonic.
We rejoin Mary six months later, and follow her routine of caring for Stephen then seeing her young patients in an adjoining office. One of her patients is Tom, a deaf-mute. Tom learns that he is going to be sent to a new school in a different town, and runs away, eventually arriving back at Mary's house. She calls the authorities but before they arrive, Tom has mysteriously disappeared once more.
Its at this point that Mary starts seeing and hearing things around the house. Is it Tom? or someone or something else? The film is at its most effective in these moments, If you've ever been in an unfamiliar house by yourself late and night, and hear the creaks and groans that could convince your imagination that you are in fact not alone - that is the atmosphere the film builds, very effectively. However these moments are sometimes offset by the more sillier aspects, such as the "oh, it's just a raccoon!" moment(s).
Some of the more proper jump-scares work better because you are never quite sure what's in Mary's imagination and what might be real, and the film does do a good job of balancing between the two, before slipping onto the side of craziness.
There are a couple of red herrings (raccoon!) along the way which are pretty easy to spot, even though the film is pretty committed to setting them up to wrong-foot the audience. However, the reveal at the climax is too unbelievable that it will bounce most of the audience off the tracks and out of the film. Again, the film is pretty committed to this outcome and hopes the audience will buy it.
The cast is very good here. Naomi Watts does well to seem stressed out enough for the audience to wonder if what is happening is inside her head, and its always great to see Oliver Platt in anything, regardless of the size of the role. Charlie Heaton is definitely a star on the rise after his role in Stranger Things, and does very well here in a difficult role. David Cubitt is also very good as Doug, the father of one of Mary's patients. Now, in many other films like this, Doug would have been a bit on the sleazy side, and you certainly think that's the way things are going to slide when he asks Mary out to dinner, but he actually turns out to be a nice guy (or is he?).
Shut In is quite effective as a low-key suspense horror film. I was pretty surprised to see this pick up a "15" rating in the UK, as there is very little in the way of actual violence to worry anyone. The film works best with its building of a creepy unsettling atmosphere within the house, but is a bit over-reliant on the more traditional jump-scares. Its main issue however is going to be the Big Reveal, which is just asking too much of the audience's suspension of belief.
6 out of 10 (MikeOutWest)
SHUT IN is currently on theatrical release in the UK and will be available on DVD/Download 10th April 2017