Written by Becca Johnson
Shut In is a competent and engaging drama thriller that uses its single location premise effectively, yet lacks the right amount of thrills to make it a memorable watch.
Directed by D.J. Caruso, Shut In sees a young Mother trapped inside a pantry by her violent ex-boyfriend and his drug addicted friend. She must not only attempt to find an escape, but protect her two small children from the escalating danger on the other side of her barricaded door.
Rainey Qualley shows star power in her performance as Jessica, Mother of two young children. Her terror is genuine, her love and need to protect her children is the heart of the movie and her dedication to everything she pursues is believable. It's not one of the best performances ever put to screen but it does show great promise. Vincent Gallo also gives a strong performance as Sammy, friend of Jessica's ex, who has returned to the house to torment her and the children. It seems a strange role for Gallo to come back to after not appearing on screen for quite some time, though his return is welcome, he brings the movie up a notch.
Throughout the fairly snappy 90 minute run-time, we learn a suitable amount of character background. Jessica has recently recovered from a drug addiction after spending time in rehab, which motivates her to be a good Mother to her two children. It also raises the stakes for her young daughter as the inability to access her mum brings back previous memories. We also learn that Sammy has been accused of harming children in the past, which feels thrown in for dramatic effect yet undeniably raises the stakes when the children are left with him unsupervised. The character development allows us to truly root for Jessica and her journey; she is a character that deserves to escape and get her children to safety, away from the characters who feel far away from redemption.
The storyline is a mixed bag. It is definitely more thriller than horror, though does sporadically use body horror and violence effectively. The single location claustrophobia also works a treat, and its impossible not to worry about the children left to fend for themselves on the other side of the door. However, as well as Sammy's troublesome past, many elements are thrown in without much afterthought or development. It adopts themes of religion, drug abuse, child abuse and domestic violence but doesn't fully commit to any, leaving it with little to say or take away from it. It hints at Jessica having a rough childhood but fails to tell us more, leaving us wondering how she ended up on this path. It has great ideas, with unfortunate execution.
Shut In is a promising and competent low budget thriller that sets a good example for independent film makers. It has notable performances that make it worthwhile, alongside decent body horror, shocking violence and a lead character worth rooting for. It may lack depth, development and a fleshed out plot, but it really tries. Gallo is electric, and the claustrophobic confined horror works.