LAFF 2015 Review: ‘Shut In’ is a Desperate House Party
It is a privilege to discover new films at film festivals, but that privilege comes with a heavy responsibility. If a film is genuinely surprising, I want you to have that experience too, so I can’t start analyzing those surprises after the first ever screening. By the time the film finds a distributor, the trailers may do that anyway, but it won’t be on me. I will take you right up to the point in Shut In where you’d still appreciate the analysis.
Shut In is The Desperate Hours if the victim was her own hostage. It’s a home invasion thriller with the door open. Three thieves (Jack Kesy, Martin Starr and Joshua Mikel) break into the home of an agoraphobic, Anna (Beth Riesgraf), who has money stashed. They don’t even have to tie her up, because she won’t leave. Just stepping onto her front porch is too traumatic.
The psychological tricks at play are sick and twisted. Starr is fully committed to being a scary threat, and he is scary. You can imagine that Anna is the hero of the piece, so she will find a way to turn the tables. That’s not a secret, it’s just the genre. The hints of her trauma pay off really well when they fuel her self-defense and revenge. You’ll want to see how this first and final girl triumphs. Riesgraf expresses a lot without words.
The script by T.J. Cimfel and David White is clever, and the direction by Adam Schindler executes it expertly. The opening of the movie gives us character introductions and establishes the geography of the house, then boom, the robbers show up out of the blue. Rory Culkin plays a delivery man who brings Anna food, and he returns to complicate things later too.
The geography pays off in early cat and mouse scenes, but it turns out there’s more to the geography than Schindler showed us at first. That’s the especially clever part. Pulling new tricks later could feel like a cheat, but it’s consistent with everything we were shown before. The geography gets more complex and sophisticated as the film delves deeper into Anna’s house. The film also features a really unique head wound, for what that’s worth.
I hope I’ve sold you enough so far so I don’t have to go any further into the plot. I can list other great films Shut In evokes, and I don’t mean the comparison to denigrate the originality of Shut In. This is a genre movie and it’s up there with the best home invasion/prisoner movies: Panic Room, The People Under the Stairs, You’re Next, Oldboy, Straw Dogs, and I said Desperate Hours already.
I can think of a few choice distributors who should put Shut In on thousands of screens, but I don’t want to leave out any takers. This is a movie to see in a packed house so you can all go on the ride together.