The last time we indulged in a horror movie focusing in on a widowed mother and her son, fighting away demons from their idyllic abode – it was Jennifer Kent’s striking debut The Babadook. But where that picture thrived was in its subtlety and to take tropes from the genre at hand to enforce intrinsic human emotion. Farren
Naomi Watts plays the aforementioned single mother Mary Portman, a child psychologist who is suffering from grief, having lost her husband in a car accident, which also consigned her teenage son Stephen (Charlie Heaton) to a wheelchair and in need of constant assistance. But it’s another young boy who demands her attention, as her patient Tom (Jacob Tremblay) turns up at her house one evening in the middle of a snowstorm. As she leaves the boy alone to go and make a phone call she returns to discover he has vanished, and she becomes obsessed with the idea of saving his life – while seeking the advice of Dr. Wilson (Oliver Platt) to help her through this tumultuous, treacherous time.
Shut In abides by the formula of the home invasion sub-genre, which has illuminated the screen in the Paranormal Activity franchise, and it’s appeal derives from the fact it’s taking our safest environment, the one location we feel most at ease, and removes all sense of security. The vulnerability is heightened on this occasion by having a lone mother fend for herself, and given her son’s disability, she’s surviving for two, with his dependability potentially causing compromises which could prove costly. It’s a notion that Blackburn enforces with the way he shoots his protagonist, often from afar, with every room seeming so daunting in size, highlighting her isolation, while we see her in the bath on occasion, again, where she’s at her most vulnerable. Mary makes for an intriguing entry point into this tale too, as we scrutinise over her mental state, and whether she’s losing her mind, or if she’s actually experiencing these dark, terrifying encounters. It’s an age old plot device, as we wonder whether it’s in her head or not, and the entire film really hinges on this notion.
Though considering this is a horror, scares are very few and far between, implemented in such a generic fashion, with countless, tedious, jumpy moments where the music builds up and then gets unbearable screechy, but it’s too easy to achieve, as a technique that requires so little skill to shock the viewer. This is emblematic of a film that is too generic, and it’s contained within a genre that needs innovation and resourcefulness to stand out from the crowd, as a saturated market where so few productions feel unique. However if it’s creativity and ingenuity you’re after, you certainly won’t find that here.
Shut In is released on February 24th.