Shut In - New Release Review
Director: D.J. Caruso
Starring: Rainey Qualley, Jake Horowitz, Vincent Gallo, Luciana VanDette
Written by: Melanie Toast
Produced by: Dallas Sonnier
Cinematography by: Akis Konstantakopoulos
Original Score by: Mondo Boys
When a young mother is barricaded inside a pantry by her violent ex-boyfriend, she must use ingenuity to protect her two small children from escalating danger while finding an escape.
From the director of ‘Eagle Eye’, ‘'Disturbia' and 'XXX: Return of Xander Cage’ comes a small scale southern backwoods version of David Fincher’s ‘Panic Room’ and despite clearly being a low-budget independent thriller, D.J. Caruso manages to squeeze out enough tension to make ‘Shut In’ a reasonably enjoyable watch.
Rainey Qualley plays Jess, a former drug addict mother of two who is selling her grandmother's beat-up old country house in hopes of moving onto greener pastures with her young children. It’s pretty clear right away that she’s had some sort of arduous and unhealthy past and the first twenty minutes, rather unsubtly, sets up what's about to unfold. There is a bit of exposition early on when Jess continually tells her daughter Lainey about her previous misgivings and why she’s moving away and so forth but it never becomes desperate. Her relationship with her daughter is very sweet and there’s a charm about how they interact with each other, especially when Jess locks herself in the large pantry and she has to ask Lainey to look after her baby brother Mason. But things turn nasty when Lainey’s father Rob (Jake Horowitz) arrives with his new friend Sammy (Vincent Gallo) who is also a meth-head and a suspected child molester. Rob is still an addict and proves to be an absolute piece of shit when he rescues Jess from the pantry only to have an argument with her and then lock her back in again. Rob and Sammy leave with Lainey and Mason left to fend for themselves alone upstairs.
Much of what happens in ‘Shut In’ is pretty standard stuff. It doesn’t exactly break the mould but it is shot really well with some striking imagery and lovely lighting. It’s helped in that area by the cool location; a large dilapidated country house bursting with character. The paint is flaking off the wooden exterior and the walls and floorboards are visibly filthy, yet there remains a genuine enchanting presence about the building.
Being locked away from her young kids is bad enough but it gets worse when Sammy returns to the house looking to cash in on a debt owed to him by Rob. His idea of cashing in is paying a visit to Lainey which sends Jess into obvious hysterics. A brave mother willing to do anything to protect her kids is a difficult match for anyone, even a very creepy Vincent Gallo (who returns to acting here after an almost 10 year hiatus). Jess enters survival mode and we get a little bit more character building when she’s forced to come face to face with Sammy in the film's most violent scene.
Melanie Toast’s script is tight but it’s not flawless. The dialogue at times is a bit hokey but Rainey Qualley is very good in a role that required a fair amount of physicality and screen time. Vincent Gallo’s return to cinema was fine. I was expecting much more from him. This felt like a role he would really sink his teeth into and he doesn’t do anything bad at all but he also doesn’t exactly excel either. It’s undeniable he plays “creepy as fuck” really well and there’s a particlualy nasty line that he delivers later on towards the end of the film that sort of made my stomach churn.
While the film isn’t overtly religious, it does play on themes from the Bible and there’s even a sequence when Jess reads the book looking for guidance. It’s insinuated that Jess comes from a religious family and that after getting off the junk she may have looked towards God for help. It doesn’t quite fall into preachy territory however the theme of redemption is certainly present and Jess being able to come out of her troubled past, through this particularly horrific event and make it to the other side a better mother and a better human being seems to be the ultimate goal here. There is one particular scene that may or may not mirror Christ’s persecution on the cross when Jess stares at the palms of her hands, which are both very bloody. This is then closely followed by an escape through the room above which resembles someone rising from the grave. You could say it was her resurrection.
- Gavin Logan
Signature Entertainment presents 'Shut In' on Digital Platforms 30th May