Shut In Review
Every acclaimed actor has starred in movies along the way that are not quite worthy of their talents. Michael Caine for example has such an impressive back catalogue overall, he can be forgiven for starring in the odd turkey during his long career, like The Hand and Jaws: The Revenge. Even Robert De Niro, much lauded for past dramatic roles, has made his fair share of recent disappointments. As for Nicolas Cage, where do we start? Which brings us to twice Oscar nominated Naomi Watts, a hugely talented actress whose past credits include so many memorable movies such as Mulholland Drive, The Ring, 21 Grams and The Impossible. It is therefore a shame to report that her most recent release, Shut In, is a misfire that failed to perform well at the US box office.
Shut In has Watts cast as child psychologist Mary Portman, who shares her remote home in Maine with 18 year old stepson Stephen (Charlie Heaton of Stranger Things fame). Portman is a grieving widow, struggling to come to terms with a terrible car accident that claimed the life of her husband and left Stephen in a catatonic state. She blames herself for what happened, as it was her decision to send Stephen away to a new school due to his behavioural problems. Now the strain of juggling her career and caring for Stephen is slowly taking its toll on her health.
One wintry night Portman is disturbed by strange sounds and goes outside to investigate. She is startled to find one of her patients, a hearing impaired 9 year old boy called Tom (Jacob Tremblay), cowering in the back of her unlocked car. She invites him inside and tries to offer reassurance, but he soon vanishes into the icy darkness. The police investigate, but Tom remains missing and is presumed dead by some of the locals due to inclement weather conditions. Portman then becomes even more wracked with guilt following this latest unsettling incident.
We're soon into creepy house territory as Portman starts to hear more terrifying sounds in the night and witnesses strange sightings, making her convinced that she is being haunted by the ghost of young Tom. She has Skype meetings with therapist Dr Wilson (Oliver Platt), to discuss her fears, but he is dismissive of her supernatural theories and puts it all down to Parasomnia. Is she losing her mind, or is there a more sinister explanation? As the disturbances continue, Portman does all those ill-advised things that characters in horror movies are always compelled to do: venture down into the cellar, peer into darkened nooks and crevices by candle light or creep around outside near a surrounding forest. This simply serves as an excuse for director Farren Blackburn to deliver a succession of cheap jump scares. Just when you might think that this is some sort of inferior James Wan knock-off, there comes a preposterous twist around 50 minutes into the film. Unfortunately what follows after this big reveal only manages to raise a modicum of suspense.
Shut In is not a terrible film and is given a much needed boost by a typically solid performance from Watts. This French-Canadian production is also professionally shot by Yves Bélanger, the gifted DoP who previously worked on Dallas Buyers Club and Brooklyn among others. The main problem is Christina Hodson's second-rate screenplay brings nothing new to the table. This type of film has been done countless times before, often with far more panache. Director Blackburn, whose background has been mainly in British TV drama, must share some of the blame by failing to effectively deliver the requisite big screen thrills or inspired set pieces.
Yves Bélanger's impressive widescreen photography shows off the rugged Canadian location work to great effect. The image on the disc provides plenty of detail throughout, even in some of the darker interior scenes.
The only audio option is DTS-HD MA 7.1, which in this case has a good level of clarity for the dialogue and is also suitably dynamic for the many jump scares.
Regrettably there are no subtitles with this Arrow Films release, which is a letdown given that the edition of Shut In released by Fox in the States does include them (the US version is region A locked). There are no featurettes included either, which is surprising as it's fairly standard nowadays to have at least some short interviews with the principal cast and crew.
The ever dependable Naomi Watts makes this unexceptional suspense thriller just about watchable. The Arrow Films BD release of Shut In offers solid picture and audio, but is lacking special features.