Monday, November 21, 2016

Shut In

Mary Portman doesn't know what to do with her son Stephen anymore. He's changed so much and nothing she does seems to connect with him despite her background as a psychologist. She decides to send him away to a school that can suit his needs, but Stephen and his father collide with a big rig. Stephen can't speak or walk or respond to any stimulus. Mary feels enormous guilt and decides to put him in a hospital. She wants to take care of a boy named Tom who is hard of hearing and without parents. Tom disappears from her house in the middle of a snow storm, presumed dead after days missing. Mary feels she's being haunted by his spirit after she failed him when odd noises and nightmarish visions occur at night with increasing frequency.

Shut In has some elements of a promising horror film. The isolated setting is perfect for any horror plot. Mary has no neighbors and becomes completely cut off from the outside world during a horrible snow storm. Most of the film takes place in the house. First, it represents a prison for her because she takes care of her invalid, unresponsive son every day. She sees his state as her fault and takes no joy in caring for him. Later in the film, the house takes on a much different form of prison where outside forces, instead of the usual internal ones, torment her. Naomi Watts is sympathetic as Mary and portrays a flawed but realistic person. Even while she tortures herself for her perceived mistakes, she still dreams of killing her son because of all he represents. I understood her even in her most monstrous moments.

Unfortunately, Shut In falls into typical tropes and shoddily reasoned twists. The premise for Shut In is pretty much all tropes seen time and time again except the invalid son. Before I even watched it, I felt I had already seen it. The trappings are different in the amazing house and isolated location, but so many plot developments are the same. The film relies on jump scares to amp up the tension, but after two or three times, it ceases to be effective. The ending features two twists: one that I knew very early in the film that made sense and the other that I didn't see coming because it didn't. The only unique thing about this film is the twist that makes absolutely no logical sense. I suspended my disbelief during the film, but looking back on it, I felt insulted as a viewer. This twist assumes a huge amount of things that include Mary not knowing anything about her profession and not recognizing the effect of drugs she administers and medical professions being incredibly inept at their jobs. 

Shut In is an extremely typical film that depends on Naomi Watts' competent acting and the isolated setting t bring in viewers. The jump scares fall flat and the twists are either completely predictable or insulting to the characters and viewers alike. I hope the critical and monetary failure of this film will show that viewers don't want to see copycat, paint by number movies. 

My rating: 1.5/5 fishmuffins

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