VOD film review: Shut In
Matthew Turner | On 26, Feb 2017
Director: Farren Blackburn
Cast: Naomi Watts, Oliver Platt, Jacob Tremblay, Charlie Heaton
Watch Shut In online in the UK: Netflix UK / iTunes / Prime Video (Buy/Rent) / TalkTalk TV / Google Play / Sky Store
Usually, when a film is plucked from the fabled Hollywood Black List of the unproduced screenplays, the result is a pleasant surprise, clearly demonstrating the promise that landed it on the list in the first place. Sadly, that’s not the case with this disappointing something-in-the-house thriller, which undermines its central premise with poor pacing and a sub-par script.
Directed by Farren Blackburn and written by debut British screenwriter Christina Hodson, the film stars Naomi Watts as Mary Portman, a clinical psychologist who conducts all her appointments from her remote house-slash-clinic in Maine, so as to be close to her catatonic 18 year-old stepson Stephen (Stranger Things’ Charlie Heaton), who was paralysed in a car crash that killed his father.
After Mary takes a special interest in a young deaf and dumb boy, Tom (Room’s Jacob Tremblay), she’s somewhat taken aback when he appears on her doorstep late one night. With a storm coming in, Mary’s forced to take care of Tom, but things take a strange turn when he subsequently disappears, apparently sparking a local search by the authorities. At the same time, Mary starts experiencing spooky goings-on in her house, causing her to wonder if maybe she’s losing her mind, despite the via-Skype assurances of her shrink colleague (Platt).
Watts is eminently watchable, as always, and she does the best she can with what she’s given here, conveying an appealing mix of creeping fear and vulnerability, laced with residual guilt over the fact that she can no longer handle looking after her teenage son. Tremblay proves an effectively unsettling presence as Tom, especially as his condition means that Watts has to do all the screaming for both of them.
Blackburn knows her way around a jump scare and there are a handful of playful moments, such as substituting a raccoon in the sort of sudden loud noise shock that’s usually reserved for a cat. However, the script really overdoes it when it comes to fake-out dream sequences, with one particularly egregious example appearing to indicate a presence in Mary’s bedroom, only to casually cut to the next morning like nothing happened.
The film is extremely poorly paced, spending what feels like an eternity on the general set-up and then not delivering anything other than a lot of wandering around a dark house for a solid 40 minutes or so. Things pick up considerably for a relatively entertaining final 20 minutes, but by then, it’s very much a case of too little, too late.
Shut In is available on Netflix UK, as part of an £8.99 monthly subscription.