Uninspired Thriller “Shut In” Boasts A Spirited Naomi Watts If Nothing Else

Lacking any discernible thrills, director Farren Blackburn’s muddled, derivative thriller will see you yawning instead of cowering behind the sofa. Plaudits to Naomi Watts for giving it her best…

Shut In has many of the prerequisites for a good snow-capped thriller without any of the necessary flair to make it work. Leaving Naomi Watts’ child psychologist stuck in her grand middle class abode during a snow storm should supply the groundwork for director Farren Blackburn to fashion his interpretation of home invasion into something mildly riveting as we root for our stricken lead’s survival but he curiously can’t. There are nods to The Shining, What Lies Beneath and Funny Games but only insofar as the redistribution of ideas. In other words, the derivative rehash of better, more interesting work.

Blackburn’s film, which finds Watts’ housebound Mary tending to her crippled son after a car crash, struggles to develop its sense of mystery or, indeed, a credible threat in its first half leaving the director’s scare tactics hollow and forgettable. Despite the film’s short running time it’s still a tough slog watching Watts wade through such weak material, her attempts to inspire empathy falling on the deaf ears of an audience wishing Shut In would find something that could be termed a plot. When it does reveal its biggest twist the ensuing disappointment is somewhat tamed by the first half of the film nullifying any sense of anticipation.

Naomi Watts deserves credit for giving Shut In a modicum of intrigue. It’s a spirited performance in an unforgiving, sparsely developed role. She’s unfortunately hampered by director Blackburn’s derivative set-pieces (ripping off one of The Shining’s sequences in one instance) and inorganic shock tactics that repetitively bludgeon a tired plot twist. He, in turn, can’t elevate Shut In beyond its uninspired roots as Christina Hodson’s script relies heavily on one of the worst horror movie revelations in recent memory, while neither manage to make the story’s greatest asset (the snowed-in isolation of a mother trying to salvage her own survival) a credible source of anxiety.

It’s fitting that funny-man character actor Oliver Platt literally phone’s-in his performance given that he spends most of the film talking to Mary on her mobile or via webcam. His character is similarly one-dimensional but it’s his attempt to salvage the situation and become his patient’s saviour that’s perhaps most distracting. Yet, that isn’t Shut In’s most damningly implausible moment when the villain of the piece makes an appearance and motives are unveiled. What it lacks in credibility it fails to make up for with well-orchestrated thrills and characters you care about. Ultimately, it’s uninspired piecemeal cinema featuring a resolute Naomi Watts who, instead of fending off a villain, must battle an uncomfortably unimaginative role.

shut in, film review, two stars

Written by Dan Stephens

Directed by: Farren Blackburn
Written by: Christina Hodson
Starring: Naomi Watts, Oliver Platt, Charlie Heaton, Jacob Tremblay, David Cubitt, Clémentine Poidatz
Released: 2016 / Genre: Thriller
Country: USA / IMDB
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Top 10 Films reviewed Shut In on DVD courtesy of Arrow Films. The film is released on Blu-ray, DVD and VOD from April 10.

Dan Stephens
About the Author
Dan Stephens is the founder and editor of Top 10 Films. He's usually pondering his next list, often inspired by his adoration for 1980s Hollywood, a time-travelling DeLorean and an adventurous archaeologist going by the name Indiana.

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