Director: Farren Blackburn
Writer: Christina Hodson
Stars: Naomi Watts, Charlie Heaton, Jacob Tremblay, Oliver Platt
Shut In is a movie that could have gone down the road of The Shining or What Lies Beneath but instead unintentionally goes down the Dumb and Dumber Too beaten track.
Now hold on, I’m not suggesting for a moment that the movie is an absolute hoot (although there are movie critics that would say the Farrelly Brothers long awaited sequel was hardly that anyway) but bare with me…..
The movie begins with an arial shot of the forresty landscape with the token house planted right in the middle of the area. This lets us know right away that at some point or another our characters are going to be isolated. Standing outside her door looking into the parked car is Mary (Naomi Watts) whilst her husband is packing in the back of the car, their son looks back at her angrily, disappointed, frustrated and angry again. In fact I’m sure one of those emotions are in there, it’s just that hard to tell with Stephen (Charlie Heaton) practically looking like this the whole time he’s in the movie.
Stephen is being carted off to boarding school having just been expelled from his previous school and the parents have had enough of his behaviour and convince themselves it would be best all round for him to leave. To be fair, Watts’ character does show signs of guilt and sorrow as her son is leaving and this is down to great acting on her part. As Stephen and his Dad are traveling down the road, he asks why he has to go and before we know it both of them are having a heavy debate whilst the car is traveling at a great speed. I feel the next sentence really shouldn’t be typed as I know, you know and everybody SHOULD know what happens next….. okay for anyone out there who may not see where this is going the car collides with an oncoming vehicle and the screen goes black.
We’re now 6 months later after those events and that isolated house out there in the woods is now covered thick in snow and at this point we don’t know if the father or son survived as we see Mary waking up and going downstairs for a cup of tea. The surrounding are quiet and empty leading us to believe for a moment that both of them died from the car accident. As I said, just for a moment until we discover tragically Stephen lying in his bed no longer able to mentally function and Mary looking after him now.
As the scenes unfold on what her daily life now involves we also discover that Mary is a child psychologist and her office is basically the wooden lodge next to her house where she councils her patients whilst nipping back and forth to make sure her son (who we now discover is actually her stepson) is comfortable. We are introduced to a small boy Mary is counselling, who has behavioural and communication problems but who Mary is fond of disappears from her house, in the freezing cold winter in Maine.
With Mary now juggling looking after her stepson and helping looking for the missing boy, things start becoming a little weird in her household. Her confidant is Dr. Wilson played by the brilliant Oliver Platt who is in most of the key scenes in the movie who in turn is counselling Mary via Skype on night terrors she is experiencing. Dr. Wilson having checked a blood sample a few days later comes back with alarming results indicating Mary has been using non prescribed drugs and worse still taking Stephen’s dosage which he regards as putting both their lives at risk. Naturally Mary defends her corner denying taking anything for her night terrors and this is where she walks away from Dr. Wilson whilst on Skype. The Doctor not wanting the discussion to end so abruptly calls out for her at his end and is shocked when he sees a figure moving across the screen quickly that has a similar silhouette to her Stepson Stephen.
Now up to this point the movie was interesting, but only just, as I felt up to this point the writing and acting was very predictable and the movie was using every suspense and horror cliché going but the moment that figure appeared on the screen which was supposed to be a natural shock to the system came across to me as the point where the movie “Jumped the Shark” This then opened up a new debate…..did Stephen just pull a Lloyd Christmas on us? Was he really pretending to be in a vegetable state for SIX MONTHS? Did he defy and con medical professionals with neurological expertise into believing his brain was barely functioning? The answer to all these questions was a big fat YES.
The reason? Stephen didn’t want to share his stepmom with anyone else. Especially the little boy he kept locked up in the basement. OH COME ON. *sigh*
Shut In to be honest had little substance with a very under developed plot that made no sense at times and other times wasn’t consistent with its writing. The third act appeared lazy and predictable where this was heading and a particular scene when Mary is trying to escape with the young boy through a skylight that she smashes (and grabs the attention of mad Stephen who is searching for both of them from top to bottom) only for her to then inform the young boy they can’t escape that way? What? Why?
You would assume the performances from the established Watts and Platt would have saved this in some fashion but she is doing her best to keep everything above the water, and Platt is there to deliver the predicable exposition. Charlie Heaton as Stephen to be fair plays the role with a creepy intent albeit a little predictable….hold on I’m using that word again. That’s what this movie is though and where it falls flat. You can honestly see the set up of each scene and how it is going to unfold. Throwing in a few dream sequences doesn’t save this movie but just adds to what I can only call a predictable thriller (I’m cringing putting these two words together but that’s exactly how it comes across)
I wasn’t expecting Shut In to be laced with the writing of Stephen King, nor was I expecting it to stand shoulder to shoulder with Kubrick’s The Shining in directorial tones. The movie is a flat piece of disappointment and really is adding another nail in the coffin to a dying genre. If you haven’t watched this, I can’t recommend it. If you have, I am assuming like the character of Stephen we can only hope our state of vegetation isn’t really there and it was just the effect of this movie hopefully wearing off.