Jess (Rainey Qualley) is having a really bad day.
Having inherited a house she can’t afford, and recently recovering from drug addiction, Jess is in the final stages of moving out with her two children. The remote house is surrounded by an orchard that only offers rotten apples, and the threat of her ex, Rob (Jake Horowitz) appearing is constant. Her daughter Lainey (Luciana VanDette) sneaks out and brings in piles of rotten apples despite constant reminders from her mother to stay inside, and keep the door locked.
The house leaks, creaks and has unreliable doors. The pantry, in particular, is prone to closing shut and can’t be opened from the inside. Unfortunately (through no fault of her own) Jess finds herself locked in the pantry, injured, while her children, Lainey only a toddler and Mason (uncredited) a baby under a year old are stuck outside.
However, Rob is not the only threat, as drug addicts don’t tend to have the best of friends. In this case, he is reliant on Sammy (Vincent Gall) for supplies and a roof over his head. But Sammy has a sordid history and is a dark influence on Rob.
The set up works effectively as a metaphor for Jess’s struggles to get clear of her own addiction and back to her children. With clear parallels for detoxing, the battles she faces and the temptations to fall back on old habits ever present.
Shut In is smartly constructed. Unlike many films of this type, it’s unclear how she is going to get out of the situation she finds herself stuck in. She doesn’t have her phone, or keys for the car outside, and very little food. Her reliance on her daughter to take care of her son is heartening and believable. As is her frustration when there are moments of misunderstanding.
The balance between tension, violence and relief is well handled too. As there are few moments when developments seem more for exploitation and shock than storytelling. The times when drastic steps are taken feel earned, empowering and necessary.
DJ Caruso builds on his skills at storytelling from small spaces, seen before in Disturbia with Shia LaBeouf. Unfortunately, once again he has aligned himself with a controversial character, as Shut In is produced by Ben Shapiro – a very mouthy conservative commentator.
It’s a shame because Shut In has little to say politically. It is an observation of someone pulling themselves out of the gutter effectively. At most it perhaps falls into the trap of being a bit too close to bible belt evangelism at times, but this aligns with the “rehab” story that it is clearly telling. This unfortunate association fits tidily in with the bad apple message throughout, so there’s a charming synergy there.
Shut In offers itself as an entertaining 90-minute thriller, with a solid performance from Qualley and those supporting her. It maybe doesn’t offer anything you haven’t seen before, but it does what it needs to do with gusto.
Signature Entertainment presents Shut In on Digital Platforms 30th May