BY ROGER THOMAS
I want to again applaud the film industry for realizing that there is a market for films that are scary and unnerving without all the blood and gore. Just this year, there have been several PG-13 rated films that offer frights; three examples are “Lights Out,” “Ouija: Origin of Evil” and now “Shut In.” None of these films will make any critic’s Top Ten list, but each of them offer some thrills and chills without a lot of offensive or extremely bloody material.
“Shut In” stars two actors I have liked in previous films. I have been a fan of Naomi Watts since I saw “Mulholland Drive” in 2001. “21 Grams,” Peter Jackson’s “King Kong,” “Fair Game,”
“St. Vincent” and “The Impossible” are some of her best works. Watts has also been nominated for two Best Actress Oscars.
Then there is young Jacob Tremblay, whose resumé is much shorter, but he does a good job in “Shut In.” His finest work yet is last year’s Best Picture Nominee “Room.” Tremblay should have gotten an Oscar nomination then, but hopefully there will be one in his future.
The third leading actor is Charlie Heaton. He recently starred in the television series “Stranger Things.” Heaton like Tremblay may have a very successful career.
So the three leads and the supporting players do all they can to make this story succeed. The basic story is about a mother, played by Watts, who is caring for her disabled stepson. She also has a counseling practice. Tremblay plays one of her clients. Heaton plays the disabled son.
The setting is this isolated home in the middle of a strong New England snow storm. The only problem is that it seldom snows. In fact, I cannot remember a lot of snowing falling. Nor does the weather actually hinder anyone from traveling. Clients and friends come and go without any impediment to their driving. So the situation seems less menacing than it could have. Remember the Overlook Hotel in “The Shining?” Now that is isolation.
However, the location and the weather in the film are not the weakest plot issues. Allow me to simply offer the fact that the story takes a turn that cannot be fully reconciled with reality. Much of the scariest parts come after a revelation that is absurd. I would love to have a conversation with the filmmakers and get their explanation of the twist that left me disappointed. As most of the audience probably did, I wondered if some of the climatic events were going to occur. It is not that the events were not predictable; it is the fact that the explanation is completely implausible.
In the end though, “Shut In” offers some real thrills. I have been surprised more often by other recent horror films, but when “Shut In” is at its best is when it is surprising. Some chills are minor; others are quite thrilling.
For those moments, I will give the creators credit. We go to horror films to be scared. We do not want to be disappointed. We want to feel chill-bumps; we want to be surprised. “Shut In” succeeds in that way.
Three strong actors and some clever scares that is the sum of “Shut In.” If you like the thrill the cinema can offer, you will find what you seek. If you want something closer to reality then perhaps you should seek something different.
I started by reminding my readers that there have been several PG-13 horror films this year. “Lights Out” and “Ouija: Origin of Evil” are both supernatural thrillers. “Shut In” is highly improbable, but the film seeks to present a story that could happen in reality.