Review: Shut In
PLOT: A widowed child psychologist struggles to maintain her sanity when unexplainable things begin to occur in the isolated New England home she shares with her paralyzed stepson.
REVIEW: One has to wonder what would possess an actress of Naomi Watts' considerable talent to take part in a movie like SHUT IN. I suppose it's a part that plenty of leading ladies could see the appeal of: there's a lot of showy crying and screaming and the like. But the final product is such a murky mess that the only real mystery toward the end is, indeed, why would she do that? Now, there are plenty of solid actors who've agreed to be in crummy horror films, so Watts isn't on an island of her own (hell, she was even in THE RING TWO), but at this stage of the game, when she's still very much in demand, not to mention capable of Oscar-caliber work, there's something very odd about seeing her give her all in such a stinker.
The screenplay must have been quite good at one time. Written by Christina Hodson, the script was on the 2012, Black List, which is, as you probably know, an annual list of the best unproduced screenplays on the market. Some of them are unproduced for a reason. Hodson's script, as it has been translated to the big screen by Farren Blackburn, is one of those clunky thrillers where characters do things they really shouldn't do for reasons that make no sense other than to advance the story and hopefully generate some gasps from the audience. (Sighs will have to do in lieu of gasps, here.) It has a twist that is simultaneously incredibly predictable and thoroughly unbelievable; one of those where you're not actually supposed to think about it for more than three seconds because otherwise you'll completely dismantle the plot of the film. The only good thing about this twist is that it allows the movie to go ever so slightly nuts; up until this point the film has been made up of boring psychoanalysis and poorly-timed suspense sequences, so when the twist goes down it at least jolts the movie to life for a bit. The fact that it's laughable is, well, the trade-off.
Watts is talented shrink for troubled kids Mary Portman, who within the first five minutes of the film loses her husband to a fatal car accident. At the time, her hubby was driving his sulking, angry teenage son Stephen (Charlie Heaton, from Stranger Things) to a boarding school; Stephen survives the wreck but is left paralyzed and brain-damaged. Some time later, Mary is still picking up the pieces and maintaining her practice, while also acting as Stephen's full-time nurse, a job that is increasingly wearing her out. Not helping her mental state is the disappearance of a new patient, Tom (Jacob Tremblay), a deaf boy. Tom vanishes near Mary's house during a blizzard and is subsequently thought to be dead... but some of the things Mary begins to hear and see would argue that he's not entirely gone.
SHUT IN moves from one puzzling development to the next, trying to generate tension from the most pedestrian of horror tropes. Director Blackburn, who has done good work on TV (Luther, Daredevil) doesn't seem to know how to make Hodson's screenplay scary, so he leans on predictable devices that any horror fan has seen a hundred times before. When that lazy twist does arrive in the third act, the film becomes simultaneously ridiculous and hackneyed.
Back to Watts: She's good here, as good as can be hoped for. Certainly better than the shoddy screenplay deserves. A pro like Watts likely can't phone it in, even when the circumstances of the plot start becoming more and more ridiculous. There's an indescribably weird scene late in the movie where she manages to maintain dignity in a way that seems almost impossible considering the circumstances. Her resolve ought to be applauded even if her decision to appear in this movie shouldn't.
There isn't a whole lot more that can be said about SHUT IN. If you like suspenseful thrillers with compelling developments and white-knuckle tension, well, you won't find that here. If, on the other hand, you like droning slow burns that obliterate common sense with ludicrous twists that defy rational explanation, then by all means shut yourself in with SHUT IN.