Anna Rook is isolated from human contact in nearly every way, which is exactly how she likes it. Suffering from crippling agoraphobia and holed up in an old Victorian mansion on the outskirts of town, the people in Anna’s life can be counted on two fingers: her terminally-ill brother, Conrad, and the charismatic Meals-on-Wheels driver, Dan. But Anna’s home is about to be invaded by a trio of small-time criminals after a hidden stash of cash. She can’t bring herself to flee, but what the intruders don’t realise is that agoraphobia is the least of her psychoses.
Home invasion thrillers are ten-a-penny these days, as are single location horrors and, at first, it looks like Shut In was set to join those ranks. Which isn’t neccessarily a bad thing – especially given the film features some fantastic performances from all involved, in particular Beth Riesgraf as the films protagonist Anna…
If you’ve ever seen Beth Riesgraf in the US TV show Leverage you’ll know how much depth she can bring to a character. In that show she was a master thief but with absolutely no social skills, it was a fantastic dichotomy between her physical prowess and her inherent clumsiness with people. In Shut In Riesgraf once again brings her character to life in a great multi-faceted, multi-layered performance. Her character is – in the end – as complex as, it turns out, the house she lives in is.
Speaking of the house. [SPOILERS] The plot of Shut In plays in a very conventional, cliched, manner, so much so that by the time Anna has gone through the whole hide/capture/escape routine for the umpteenth time you’ll be left wondering where else the film has to go… Then the house comes into play. For it turns out there is a lot more to Anna and her home than is first thought, turning the story of Shut In on its head as the captors become the captees. And then the real story kicks in.
It’s impossible to discuss the plot of Shut In without massive spoilers, in fact I’ve undoubtedly already said too much. This is the type of film that needs to be experienced first-hand. It may not hold up on repeated viewing, for the twsit is – once again – the thing that makes the movie, but the satisfying way in which writers T.J. Cimfel and David White slowly turn the tide within the film, before opening up the story in ways the audience will never have thought possible, is to be commended.
Even moreso given that they do not play to any expectations, subverting even ideas that Anna is not alone in the house (many would swear there’s something behind the door in the basement). Especially given the character arc of Anna and her brother, which meant Shut In could have very easily been told as a ghost story, with Anna’s brother returning to save her from her would-be assailants.
Yet instead this is Anna’s story, her journey from not only physical shut in but emotional one remaining at the core of both halves of the movie. Shut In is another entry in what is looking to be a long-line of Frightfest movies this year featuring female protagonists at their core, taking charge of themeselves and the situation they find themselves in. And no one does it better, or more empathically, than Beth Riesgraf.
Horror, Thriller |USA, 2015 | 18| Film4 Frightfest 2015 | Studiocanal UK | 28th December 2015 (UK DVD) |Dir.Adam Schindler | Beth Riesgraf, Martin Starr, Jack Kesy, Rory Culkin, Leticia Jimenez | Buy: [DVD]