Something wretched about this season, I guess. Shut In is the second film in the last week—after Gautham Menon’s Achcham Yenbadhu Madamaiyada —to start off rather promisingly before tapering off into irredeemable insignificance. In the beginning, Farren Blackburn’s film suggests an introspective take on familial relationships through the prism of horror. In hindsight, I realise the folly, but for a while, it was all reminiscent of Babadook —that film too is about a single, lonely mother, with a helpless son, trying to make sense of the supernatural occurrences in her dreary house. However, now that I have seen Shut In , I hope that Jennifer Kent, the director of Babadook , will find it in her heart to forgive me for the comparison.
Bad horror films usually come with an excessive reliance on jump scares; Shut In too has its fair share. In fact, it has more than its fair share. The first jump scare involving a raccoon is terrific, and got the whole theatre hall laughing in unease. It wasn’t yet evident that the film would then plummet in a steady decline. Making matters worse are cheap scenes which show you a horrific event and then the character waking up from a nightmare. These keep piling on relentlessly, and eat up into a bulk of the running time of 91 minutes.
Ultimately, Shut In is simply a B-grade thriller that’s ashamed to be one. That’s perhaps why the protagonist, Mary Portman (Naomi Watts), isn’t just an average helpless woman. She’s also a child psychologist. It’s another matter that her medical skills never come to the fore or affect the story in any manner. You have to wonder how good a psychologist she is, when she confuses basic symptoms of a psychoactive drug—the like of which she surely studied extensively about—with the presence of a ghost. Somehow, the makers seem to have convinced—no, conned—Naomi Watts into featuring in this one. It’s her presence that stands between you and the exit door.
Perhaps Shut In should just have been content to be a regular story of a mother and her son getting into trouble while in their lonely bungalow, but then, that’d become something like a Panic Room . The big twist of the film that comes out of nowhere almost made me burst into laughter. There is no build-up, no effort at developing flesh around the twist to make it believable when it comes. The film touches a sensational low when the villain, his face contorted in utterly unconvincing menace, walks the house, dragging his axe against the wall, as though channelling his inner Jack Torrance ( The Shining ). It’s then that it truly hit me what a fool I was to ever take this film seriously. If it weren’t for Naomi Watts…
Director: Farren Blackburn
Cast: Naomi Watts, Oliver Platt
Storyline: A widowed child psychologist is in the presence of supernatural occurrences at her lonely bungalow
Bottomline: Shut out
Running time: 91 minutes