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'Shut In' Review: Slow-Burn Horror, Minus the Horror, Whole Lotta Slow

By Rebecca Pahle | Film | November 11, 2016 |

By Rebecca Pahle | Film | November 11, 2016 |

Warning: I am going to spoil the fuck out of this bottom of the barrel horror abortion (horrorbortion?) because frankly I am pissed off that I had to sit through it. It wastes some very talented performers on stupid, scare-less nonsense, and you should all have to be subjected to it if I was.

First: The non-spoilery stuff. Naomi Watts plays Mary, a widowed child psychologist who spends most of her time caring for stepson Stephen (Stranger Things’ Charlie Heaton), left paralyzed and non-responsive by the car accident that killed Mary’s husband six months earlier. Swooping into the storyline on the wings of adorable baby angels is Room’s Jacob Tremblay as Tom, a patient of Mary’s who’s about to be shuttled away to foster care. Mary’s grown attached to Tom and wants to look after him, because really, you’ve seen Room, he’s as cute as 12 puppies. Then, one night, Tom disappears into a snow storm. Everyone assumes he’s dead, only Mary keeps sensing his presence around the house. Weird noises, doors closing by themselves, that sort of thing. Are these just hallucinations brought on by stress, as Mary’s doctor (Oliver Platt) argues? Is she going crazy? Or is *gassssssp* she really being haunted by baby Jacob Tremblay?

Is this movie about to get real fucking dumb? Oh yes, it is.


It’s the son. Like, fucking obviously. From the very first scene. It’s the son.

This movie: Nary a surprise, nary a scare. So much of Shut In is thrown together haphazardly for no damn reason. Why is there a subplot where one of Mary’s patient’s dads is hitting on her? Why does Oliver Platt even need to be here? Why is Jacob Tremblay’s character deaf? I dunno. In a perfect world, I’d give this movie the benefit of the doubt and say “Oh, well, there doesn’t need to be a reason for him to be deaf. It’s representation for the differently abled!” Except Shut In seems to be under the impression that Tom being deaf plays up the whole “creepy kid” angle, and… no. Not really.

For an example of how very unoriginal Shut In is, the big twist—you think something supernatural’s going on, but surprise, it’s just someone living in the walls!—is pretty much the same twist that was in The Boy earlier this year. There are some differences, obviously. Instead of the bad guy hiding in the wall we get the bad guy hiding someone else in the wall. Basically, Stephen’s a big ol’ faker with an Oedipus complex and a penchant for slipping dear mother his meds. When this other kid comes along and starts “stealing” Mary’s affections, he snaps and traps the kid in the crawlspace.

This twist—the big thing that’s supposed to save the movie from the hour of low-energy tedium that came before (70% of Platt’s job is to sit in front of a computer screen and pretend he’s Skyping with Naomi Watts. He is literally phoning it in.)—is bad on so many levels. It’s obvious, first off. It adds a level of implied sexual menace that I really do not need now or ever, kthx. Stephen wanting to schtup Mary, who raised him since he was five and is basically the only mom he’s ever known, is never explicitly spelled-out by the filmmakers, but… really though. He strips her naked, puts her in the bath and ties her to the faucet. He uses his body to pin her against furniture while talking about how they should always be together, just the two of them. No. No thanks. None of this.

On top of that, part of the fun of horror movies—if you do indeed find horror movies fun—is rooting for the protagonist to at long last beat the shit out of the monster, supernatural or otherwise, who’s been menacing them for the last two hours. But I don’t care how weird Stephen is or how many people he’s killed (two)—no part of me is rooting for this woman to have to kill her emotionally disturbed teenage son. That shit’s just not fun for me. And then, for Shut In’s happy-go-lucky into the sunset ending, we get Mary dropping Tom off at school and talking about getting him a dog. “LOLOL, sucks that I had to bash my son’s head in with a hammer, but at least now I’ve traded him in for a new, more sane version!” Fuck off.

Everything in this movie is a bizarre miscalculation. Naomi Watts, I hope your paycheck was good.