Shut In - Shut In(VOD) [Signature Entertainment - 2022]
Shut In is a 2022 thriller that follows the plight of an ex-drug taking mother, who is trapped in an isolated and rundown house with her two children, as she's tormented by her ex & his sleazy buddy. It’s a decidedly moodily filmed affair- taking place in late rain-filled & rotten apple summer- with a good small, and largely well-placed cast with the biggest name here being infamous actor, director, and musician Vincent Gallo- which is one of the reasons I was pulled to the film. Here from Signature Entertainment is the VOD release of the picture.
The film was directed by Norwalk, Connecticut born D.J. Caruso- who has eleven feature lengths to his name, as well as quite a few US TV credits too. And there is no doubt Shut In is a wonderful captured and grimly hued film- with largely believable acting from both the adult and children actors. Though it does have a few issues- midway pacing issues, and rather heavy-handed Christian faith leanings…but more on those later.
The film opens with great atmospheric shots of dank and grey rural landscapes- and we focus on a selection of apple trees (we get a lot of apples and apple-related analogies though-out the film). We see a young little girl (say four or so) picking out a seemingly unrotten fruit from the fallen pile. She rushes back to a rundown wooden strutted house- where she finds her mother Jessica (Rainey Qualley). The little girl Lainey (Luciana VanDette) passes her mother the apple, who places it on a big pile of other apples...clearly, she brings a lot in. We find out sooner enough that Lainey has a baby in arms sister, and the three are shortly to depart from the house, which is Jessica dead grandma’s house.
We also find out that Jessica is ex junky, who has been into rehab and is very much focusing on staying clean. While clearing the house ready to leave, Jessica gets stuck in the house’s pantry- calling for Lainey to get a screwdriver to pass under the door. Next thing Jessica’s ex Rob (Jake Horowitz)- a still using junky turns up with his shifty, and child-abusing buddy Sammy (Vincent Gallo)- letting her out of the pantry. One thing leads to another, and Rob forces her back into the pantry- hammering up the door, hurting her hand in the process- then throws a warp of drugs under the door, saying he’ll return when she is high. From here on Lainey is Jessica's only hope to get out of the pantry.
The initial locked-in section of the film, after the dramatics of her been forced in there, is frankly a little dull/ un-tense- as Lainey follows one order after another from her mother. At about the mid-way point, things start to improve as someone turns up at the house, but even then there’s a fair bit of lulling in the pace/ tension- at times it almost feels like watching paint dry. I understand they’ve got to put across the passing of time, but it’s all done in a rather flat, uninspired, and un-thrilling manner.
In the second half of the film, there are certainly effective moments of both tension and threat, with rather gruelling touches of brutality- and the cast is certainly playing their roles with believability and conviction. The problem is the script itself, and of course the lack of tension/ edge in a lot of the direction.
The other big issue for me was the Christian faith elements in the film/plot- these at points get rather suffocating, cloying, and frankly overbearing. I understand why they are been used, but they just feel very heavy-handed and preachy- it’s to such a level that one wonders if Caruso or someone connected in the film is a re-born Christian. I have no issue with any religious content in films, but when it gets to such a distracting and heavy-handed manner, it damages the film itself.
In finishing I wanted to like Shut In a lot more than I did- because it certainly had a lot of things going for it- a good eye for atmosphere, a neat grim setting/ tone, well-acted and believable characters, and some effective moments of tension. Sadly, it was let down by the pacing issue, heavy-handed preachy-ness, oh and the overuse of apple-related analogy.