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Shut In (2016) Review

Shut In is a 2016 thriller about a widowed woman caring for her paralyzed son that believes her home might be haunted, and as such, slowly begins to question her own sanity.

Mary (Naomi Watts) is a child therapist with a teenage boy named Stephen (Charlie Heaton), suffering from his own set of issues. So bad is his anger, she and her husband decide to ship him off to a special facility for help. But, on the drive there, an accident kills her husband and leaves Stephen completely paralyzed. Half a year later, she’s trying to cope with the loss and providing her son with the right care, but it’s not that easy as he can’t talk or interact. As she puts it, he’s just a body to wash and feed. She has thoughts of sending him to a proper medical home but dreams of drowning him in the tub.

Meanwhile, her latest patient, a deaf nine-year-old boy named Tom (Jacob Tremblay), is having a terrible time adjusting to his new foster home and while she thinks there are signs of improvement, others decide to move him on. When he goes missing, he seems to show up on her property, or does he? Is she becoming delusional, paranoid, or worse? She contacts Dr. Wilson (Oliver Platt), a sympathetic colleague to try and get some advice, but no matter what happens, she seems to spiral further into the abyss.

Shut In
Shut In, 2016 ©EuropaCorp

Directed by Farren Blackburn, Shut In is a tragically pedestrian experience, a film so benign, so perfuctory, it would seem to have no appeal, even for true die hards of the genre and Watts. The primary issue is balance. What does it want to be? Tragedy has often been the central conceit of psychological thrillers, with the better ones, such a 2014’s The Babadook, finding ways to layer the characters in a more meaningful sorrow that is much deeper and yet more esoteric in understanding. Not so with Shut In, which defines its characters in broad, obvious strokes, with one character even outright explaining in detail exactly what the we should be discerning on our own through far less expositional dialogue. 

The film makes no effort to conceal its desire to be a scary thriller rather than an intelligent mystery, punctuating the cheapest of jump scares with Inception-level score hits that are entirely unearned, not to mention that everything is filmed in murky low light allowing deep shadows to be nesting grounds for scares. The looming approach of a terrible snowstorm is also alluded to constantly but even that ends up being barely a thing.

Then there’s the twist, because a film like this has to have one. But let me tell you, as twists go, this one should have been better, but as it is, comes off not just as illogical, but objectively implausible. But even swallowing that pill and accepting at face-value the reveal, the ludicrous way it plays out, steadfastly committing to its chiller aspirations, is shamefully one-note.

While Watts manages to maintain some presence despite losing some dignity, she can’t save a painfully generic script. Heaton, who just made big waves in the phenomenal Stranger Things, is painted into a corner, but does his best, and the talented young Tremblay (of lasts year’s Room) is all but a cardboard cutout. Then there’s Platt, whose character spends most of his screen time talking through a Skype connection with Mary, almost literally phoning it in.

Shut In may tempt you with a strong cast and a clever plot, but don’t be fooled. This is a movie to be avoided, riddled with clichés and lacking in almost any entertainment value.

Shut In (2016)

Movie description: Shut In is a 2016 thriller about a widowed woman caring for her paralyzed son that believes her home might be haunted, and as such, slowly begins to question her own sanity.

Director(s): Farren Blackburn

Actor(s): Naomi Watts, Charlie Heaton, Jacob Tremblay

Genre: Horror

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