The classic elements of horror are in place. A large, lonely house with only woods and trees as neighbours and a paralysed stepson for company. Clinical psychologist Mary Portman’s husband is dead after a car accident that left his son Stephen catatonic. She cleans Stephen’s dribble after feeding him, steps out to encourage deaf nine-year old patient, Tom. There’s a storm brewing, winds howling. Tom turns up and abruptly goes missing from her house. She hears footsteps, gets nightmares, imagines she’s drowning Stephen in the bathtub, jumps with fright at a raccoon. And she consults Dr Wilson over Skype who tells her she’s got sleep problems.
Once director Farren Blackburn sets it all up, an emptiness matching the house creeps in. The twist that finally comes in the tale is really not worth the effort of waiting for it. Barely fifteen minutes into the film, Christina Hodson’s screenplay exhausts all the known essentials for jump scares with convenient and lazy writing.
Without spilling any spoilers, you do for instance wonder why Dr Wilson would drive all the way to Mary’s house when a coherent call to 911 should’ve brought the cops to her door. But I guess the body count wouldn’t have been impressive if the demented criminal or resident ghost didn’t get enough scenes to bludgeon someone before the climax in the snow.
Apart from the fact that it’s all so seen-before and experienced too often, several details are also left unexplained. Not that the nitty-gritty matters when the larger picture is itself so devoid of newness. Even a naked Portman doesn’t serve terror or thrill since it’s ill-placed and unnecessary.
Cast as Mary Portman, Naomi Watts is enthusiastic but ultimately it’s a job that doesn’t serve its purpose.
For a horror film that doesn’t go beyond basic requirements, Shut In gets a 2 star rating.