Movie Review: Shut In

Generic horror film in an isolated house has a good cast but few real scares

Shut In (V pasti)
Directed by Farren Blackburn
Starring Naomi Watts, Oliver Platt, Charlie Heaton, Jacob Tremblay, David Cubitt

There is only so much deception a horror film can pull before the audience raises a collective eyebrow. The earliest scares in Shut In are all fakes: a stray animal making noise at night and some dream sequences, quickly setting up the radar in experienced viewers that something is up and the filmmakers aren't playing fair.

The script uses some sure-fire elements such as an attractive woman isolated alone in a big dark house, trapped by bad weather. But it doesn't do nearly enough with them.

Naomi Watts plays a child psychologist named Mary Portman. She lost her husband a few years ago in an automobile accident when he was taking their trouble-making son, Steven (Charlie Heaton), to a boarding school. The son survived, but bedridden and in need of constant medical care.

Strange things start to happen. A deaf boy named Tom (Jacob Tremblay) that Mary was treating shows up on his own and then vanishes without a trace. A large winter storm threatens to come, Mary decides to stay at the house even though people warn her to leave, as it is too difficult to move her son and she is also still looking for Tom.

The film offers one big plot twist, but it is rather obvious if you have been paying attention. Several big hints are dropped. But the twist isn't really credible, making the whole film a waste of time.

But even if you don't guess, the main idea is clear. The isolated woman will be terrorized for the bulk of the film either by some supernatural or natural force while she is cut off from the rest of the world by the storm. She will have to be strong and resourceful to survive, and there will be several times when it really looks like she won't make it. It is a fairly generic plot.

Naomi Watts, who has had a good run of films since breakthrough in Mulholland Drive in 2001, seems out of place in this sort of film that really should have gone direct to DVD. Also caught up in the mess is Oliver Platt, who gets high billing despite being in only a few scenes and mostly as a face on a two-way computer conversation. It is a way of giving Mary someone to talk to while she is being terrorized, but still leaving her basically alone to fend for herself.

The film does delivers some tense moments, but nothing people haven't seen countless times before. And the film's big surprise is likely to leave people feeling they were at least a bit ripped off. 

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