Cinematic Releases: Shut In (2016) - Reviewed

How does poor Naomi Watts get stuck with two movies in the same year that all but completely shit the bed at the halfway mark?  Earlier this year she featured prominently in the well-meaning but ultimately ridiculous artistic misfire by Gus Van Sant, The Sea of Trees and now here is Shut In, yet another halfhearted bastard child of What Lies Beneath and Orphan.  While the aforementioned hand-me-down children of Alfred Hitchcock with the creepy children and unfinished business were far from masterpieces, they at least tried to set themselves apart from the pack…tried.  With Shut In which concerns psychologist Mary Portman (Naomi Watts) who spends her existence caring for her paralyzed son Steven (Charlie Heaton from Stranger Things) in her secluded Canadian home in the dead of a brutal winter, things begin well enough for the first hour save for some cheap jump scares before going off the rails in predictably contrived fashion germane to these kinds of PG-13 rated ghost-or-madness thrillers. 

For all the chilly atmosphere and long sequences of quiet dread exuded by Watts walking around her snow covered home alone at night in search of a potential prowler sneaking about her home, it’s all in vain once the big scary reveal rears it’s ugly head.  There were around forty minutes left to go in this thing and I was already ready to leave this dull and unfrightening cliché fest.

Visually this Canadian-French production is well shot by Yves Belanger in 2.35:1 widescreen which capture wide blue panoramas of the snow covered home at night as well as claustrophobic interior shots of her home with who knows what lurking in the shadows.  The soundtrack is equally good in terms of creating ambience and atmospheric unease with heavy winds surging in the background with scenes where you can hear a pin drop.  Much like Insidious, it’s a film that begins so confidently that you throw your hands up in dismay and anger once the third act gets rolling, squandering everything that came before it both lazily and insipidly.  Watts is always good no matter how bad the movie she’s trapped in is and you have to hand it to her for trudging through the freezing Canadian and British Columbian winter.  The actors do their best although I found the main antagonist to be as unfrightening as, say, Rhys Wakefield in The Purge.  Director Farren Blackburn wants us to be scared of what ultimately amounts to a little twerp we could break in half with the greatest of ease.  Still, Blackburn can’t entirely be faulted for this dreck, which ultimately points to screenwriter Christina Hodson whose script sat on the shelf since 2012 before being greenlit by EuropaCorp.  This might be one of the few times where some ideas are better left unrealized.

Be frightened!!!! It's Wal-Mart, honey!

While this didn’t quite scrape the bottom of the barrel as, say, Gods of Egypt and wasn’t nearly as infuriating as The Sea of Trees, what bothered me the most about Shut In was the cookie cutter laziness of the script.  With a first hour or so of this thing being relatively taut with not much lead in as to where it was headed, you can’t help but get angry that the story went down such a predictably dull and uninspired route.  You can predict every scene shot by shot once the third act begins and that’s a real shame.  I would like to think viewers enjoy being surprised instead of being spoon fed the same baby food over and over again.  Furthermore, Watts is such an immensely talented actress, other than a paycheck and trying to make viewers forget she was in The Ring Two, I can’t figure out why she wasted her time on this crap.  Lastly, while Orphan tried to sell it’s silly plot developments believably and with characterization that allowed viewers to ease into the outlandish notions, Shut In doesn’t care to bother with such trivialities.  Instead, it simply plugs in yet another chase thriller with zero lead in before end of movie.  That this film has such contempt for its audience by not even caring enough to develop some kind of exposition veering us towards the out of nowhere contrivances that feel dropped in from another movie, I felt sure of my convictions when I told the woman taking scores by the theater entrance upon being asked if I liked the movie with a deep and loud “No!”.


- Andrew Kotwicki