A good thriller can be a great many things: exciting, scary, gruesome, erotic, and even funny. The one thing they should never be is boring. Shut In is none of the things on that list, but it is boring. It spends the first hour or so developing characters and setting up its story in such a lazy, hodgepodge way that by the time something even remotely thrilling happens, I’d long since stopped caring enough to be scared.
Mary Portman (Naomi Watts), a child psychologist, lives with her invalid son Stephen (Charlie Heaton) in an isolated house in rural Maine. As the full force of winter begins to hit and an upcoming ice storm threatens to trap them in, strange things begin to occur. A young deaf boy, Tom (Jacob Tremblay), whom Mary has been treating. shows up at her door one night all by himself. Not long later, he disappears into the cold, cold night.
Mary begins having nightmares about the boy and hears strange sounds coming from the innards of the house. Her therapist (Oliver Platt) assures her she’s imagining all of it due to her inability to sleep. Slowly (ever so slowly), more and more creepy things occur until about the one-hour mark in which the ridiculous twist is revealed at which point the film becomes your standard thriller with Mary fighting off the bad guy with her wits. And a hammer.
The concept of someone being trapped in a house isolated from the world while creepy things start to occur is a good, if overused, one. Adding in the invalid son was a nice twist. One could make an effective psychological thriller out of those plot elements. It's too bad then that director Farren Blackburn (who has done some good work on television including Doctor Who, Daredevil, and The Fades) turns to every lazy horror and thriller cliche around. First-time writer Christina Hodson’s script is not so much lazy, but dumb.
You know what makes the "trapped in an isolated house" thriller not work at all? When the protagonist isn’t the least bit isolated. Her house has the look of your typical cabin in the woods (and Blackburn gives us numerous exterior shots where it seems to be out in the middle of nowhere) but it's actually fairly close to town. At least her various clients have no problem coming out to her house for sessions, and her assistant is there everyday at the most random of hours. She has internet and cell-phone coverage. These things aren’t necessarily bad, they could make an interesting commentary on the standard tropes of the genre, but the film does nothing with them. For nearly an hour, it drones on with plot that serves no purpose and certainly doesn’t thrill.
The film makes a big deal about the oncoming storm. We see several newscasts about it and at least a couple of characters ask Mary if she'd rather stay with them. When the storm finally comes, it's hardly anything. We see a little rain. There appears to be more snow on the ground than usual. But none of this impedes the action. The power goes out but everyone has flashlights and lanterns so that it doesn't really matter. The twist ending is interesting for a moment until you think about it for more than a few minutes upon which you’ll realize it makes absolutely no sense and then the film becomes akin to the lowest form of slasher film, minus the slashing.
I see that Christina Hodson has a script for Transformers 6 and a Bumblebee spin-off. I look forward to not watching them.
The Blu-ray looks and sounds quite good. It's a nice transfer all around. Extras include a trailer and two short features on the film.