Film Review: Shut In (dir by DJ Caruso)

Shut In is not a political movie.

It’s important to point that out because much of the online reaction to Shut In will be totally political.  That’s because it’s the second film to have been produced by The Daily Wire.  And yes, Ben Shapiro is listed as one of the film’s producers.  For many, it doesn’t matter that the film’s script appeared on The Black List of the best unproduced scripts in Hollywood.  (Of course, some notoriously terrible movies have been made out of the scripts that appeared on The Blacklist — remember Cedar Rapids? — so maybe it’d be best not to call too much attention to that.)  It won’t matter that the script was initially purchased by a major studio or that Jason Bateman (who is hardly a right-wing media figure) was originally set to direct it before the project was delayed by the pandemic.  All that will matter is that the film was produced by the Daily Wire and therefore, it will be judged as being some sort of political statement.

Indeed, when the film’s premiere was streamed on YouTube earlier tonight, I kept one eye on the movie and another eye on the chat comments.  About 80% of them were from people saying, “Let’s go Brandon!”  18% were from people saying, “Biden 2024 Harris 2028.”  And 2% of the comments were from some group of weirdoes who were obsessed with Liz Cheney.  The film itself might not be political but the film’s audience definitely was and probably will continue to be so.  I imagine most hardcore online liberals will automatically hate the film because of who produced it while most hardcore online conservatives will be tempted to overpraise it and cite it as proof that a good film can be made outside of the Hollywood system.  It’s tempting to say that’s just the way of the world nowadays but, to be honest, it’s really just the way of the extremely online world.  Most people won’t care one way or the other.  They’ll just view it as a being an effective thriller.

And, make not doubt about it, Shut In is not a bad film.  It’s an effectively tense thriller, one that has plenty of suspense and which makes good use of its limited budget.  If it’s never quite a great film, that’s because there’s a few pacing and plausibility issues, especially early on in the film.

Shut In stars Rainey Qualley as Jessica, a former dug addict who has escaped from her abusive ex and who is now trying to start a new life, with her young daughter and her newborn son, in an isolated farmhouse.  Unfortunately, when her ex, Rob (Jake Horowitz), and his scummy friend, Sammy (Indie film legend Vincent Gallo, making his first film appearance in ten years), show up at the house, Jessica ends up getting locked in the pantry while Rob and Sammy ransack the house and, most importantly, steal her phone so she can’t call for help.  Trapped in the pantry, Jessica tries to figure out a way to escape while also trying to instruct her young daughter on how to take care of her baby brother.  The whole time, of course, she’s aware that Sammy and Rob could return at any minute.

Director D.J. Caruso does a good job of building and maintaining tension throughout the film.  The majority of the film’s action takes place in that pantry and, just like Jessica, we find ourselves forced to try to interpret the sometimes random footsteps and snippets of conversation that we hear throughout the house.  Rainey Qualley, who is the daughter of Andie MacDowell and who has a Southern accent that is almost as prominent as her mother’s, is sympathetic in the role of Jessica and does a good job of playing up not only her fear but her strength.  Jessica is a survivor and it’s difficult not to admire her as she searches for a way to escape.  Vincent Gallo is older but still as uniquely photogenic as he was during his indie heyday.  He’s memorably creepy as Sammy.

As I said, it’s not a flawless film.  It takes a while for things to really get going and, towards the end of the film, a few of the characters behave in ways that defy logic.  One key moment depends on a character surviving something that, by all logic, should have easily killed them.  It may not be a political film but there are a few bits of heavy-handed religious symbolism, including an injury that deliberately calls to mind stigmata.  That said, when Jessica finally begins to fight back, it’s an enjoyably cathartic moment.

Shut In is an effective thriller and a determinedly non-political one.  If nothing else, it’ll keep you out of the pantry.

One response to “Film Review: Shut In (dir by DJ Caruso)

  1. Pingback: Lisa Marie’s Week In Review: 2/7/22 — 2/13/22 | Through the Shattered Lens

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