Welcome to Knockout Horror. We are kicking things off this week with another quick fire review. As I have pointed out in my previous Quick Fire Horror Review of The Sitter. This section is dedicated to movies that are pretty bad. Movies that there isn’t a ton to say about. Older films where any new commentary would be a bit redundant. And, of course, horror adjacent movies that don’t really fit.
Shut In falls into the latter category. This isn’t really a horror at all but you may see it promoted as such. It’s far more of a simple thriller. While it is a decent movie in its own right. It really doesn’t fit here. As always, with my Quick Fire Reviews, I will stay strictly under 1,000 words not including this opening and headers. Let’s take a look.
Shut In has a fairly simple premise. Recovering drug addict Jessica gets stuck in a pantry. Her estranged husband, also a drug addict, lets her out. Husband’s friend claims she thinks she is better than them. Husband puts her back in the pantry and boards it up. It is a really straight forward story and, as such, fairly self contained. In fact, nearly the entire movie is spent in a claustrophobic room not much bigger than an en-suite. You can almost smell the piss and sweat. That might actually be the perfect segue depending on your view of the distributor.
Shut In is the first original movie to be distributed by The Daily Wire. The Daily Wire, for those who don’t know. Is a conservative media and news site founded, in part, by Ben Shapiro. The controversial Shapiro has often pushed the narrative of Hollywood influencing people’s opinions. Complaining about woke agendas and a left leaning bias. It makes sense that the next logical step would be for them to try and do the same. Negative opinions on topics such as abortion, LGBTQ+ people and gun control aside. The influence of the right leaning company isn’t overly stark here.
Separating politics from media can be a difficult task. There will be people who want to avoid this movie. The thought of supporting such a problematic company will put people off. That is totally understandable. There is some actual talent at work here, though. From acting to directing, this is a fairly well done movie. It seems, for the most part, as if the aforementioned media company stepped aside.
With the above being said, however. This does feel like a movie made with a specific subset of people in mind. A group of people that believe that all are worthy of redemption in God’s eyes. Jessica has been seeking her redemption. She finds some of it in a thick bible she reads while trapped. Indeed, one specific psalm is read aloud bringing her to tears. This is very much a story about a woman trapped (literally) and finding God.
There is a distinct feeling that the movie was made to get this message across. The moralising does dull the tension, as well. For the most part, the message of recovery is a good one. Be it through religion or self improvement. It would be negligent of me, as a reviewer, to not mention it, though. Some people will feel irked at the Christian themes here. Some will find them too on the nose. Others may feel as though this is something of a trojan horse. A subtle attempt at projecting the views of a controversial, right wing, media company. Others will be able to overlook it and simply enjoy the film.
If we take all of the above and put it to one side for a bit. What we have here is a tense little thriller that is actually worth a watch. Rainey Qualley, as Jessica, is generally decent. A few of her earlier interactions with the children can feel awkward. She doesn’t have a particularly expressive face, either. Despite this, she does a pretty good job. Luciana VanDette, as daughter Lainey, is fantastic. The pair come across as a believable little family. You thoroughly buy into the fact that Jessica is trying her best. Having, perhaps, not been there for her children in the past. She is learning how to be a mother. That is presented warts and all.
Taking place, for the most part, in a tiny room. Jessica spends much of her time attempting to find a way out. Her daughter, Lainey, does her best to provide tools for her. Running outside to fetch a screwdriver. The tension mounts as we realise that she, perhaps, forgot to lock the door. It’s fairly compelling stuff. The addition of the husband’s friend with a troubling history serves to up the tension. Played by Vincent Gallo in an absolute highlight of the film. Sammy is an unhinged character full of malice.
Sound use in this movie is fantastic. The footsteps of Lainey as she runs around the house echo through the room. You can hear doors being slammed, locks turning and Jessica’s young baby crying. This bring a surprising amount of tension to the movie. The sounds throughout the house work to almost extend the pantry into a bigger location. That is noteworthy as the pantry is very claustrophobic.
Well set up shots by director D.J. Caruso helps to expand the limited space. Despite an ugly fish eye lens style effect leading to tons of soft focus. A multitude of camera angles are used to keep things fresh. It is hard to imagine some people not finding this location too small, though. Even though the pacing is generally okay. Many will likely get bored. The film can be dull, at times, and will struggle to keep your attention. That’s without mentioning the glaring plot holes. It is difficult not to be frustrated at Jessica for her inability to do the obvious.
An ending that feels a little problematic for its use of children wraps things up. It is, at times, uncomfortable viewing. I question the use of children in movies. The latter scenes of Shut In are no exception. Still, the film maintains some tension for its final stanza. As predictable as it is, it seeks to reinforce the movie’s religious message of redemption. Again, the moralising feels painfully on the nose. Given the movie’s theme, however, it makes sense.
Shut In is a movie that many will likely avoid. It's association with Daily Wire and strong Christan messages won't be for everyone. Still, it is a fairly effective, tense, thriller. Well directed and with decent acting. Shut In makes the most of its claustrophobic filming location. Some may find it a little on the boring side. Plot holes do impact enjoyment slightly. The moralising is, also, glaring at times. Still, this is an atmospheric thriller that is worth a look.