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Shut In: A spooky psycho thriller

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Film: Shut In

Cast: Naomi Watts, Oliver Platt, Charlie Heaton, Jacob Tremblay, David Cubitt, Crystal Balint, Clémentine Poidatz, Tim Post

Director: Farren Blackburn


The cunningest psycho in contemporary Hollywood movies is, to my mind, is the ex altar boy in the crime thriller Primal Fear played by Edward Norton who fools just about everybody including his own smartness lawyer played by Richard Gere. Thank goodness for small mercies, the murderous antagonist in this psychological horror thriller, doesn’t. It may be noted the insane do not necessarily possess criminal tendencies although this film’s antagonist, does. This is what screenwriter Christina Hodson and helmer Farren Blackburn exploit expertly in this film which is spooky and perplexing in equal proportions.

The tension creeps in when widowed psychologist Mary Portman (played by Naomi Watts) who lives in an isolated region of New England is plagued by recurring nightmares about her troubled quadriplegic step-son Stephen (Charlie Heaton) and her in-house child patient Tom (Jacob Tremblay) who disappears. When small Tom looms in the doorway of her bedroom or Stephen nearly drowns in the bath-tub, Dr Portman is unable to discern between real and unreal and so is the viewer until Portman’s medico (Oliver Platt) comes to the aid of the damsel in distress. Does he succeed? Yes and no.

Suffice to add, the narrative turns on the Grecian myth of Oedipus which was utilised by Freud to explain incest. Under Hodson-Blackburn’s watch, the celluloid self-centred Oedipus proceeds on a murderous rampage to remove the hurdles impeding his twisted desires. This means getting rid of all who ‘compete’ for a share in the object of his affections.

This is Dr Portman, who wears herself down as a caregiver when she could have engaged an auxiliary nurse. I am merely speculating, but it’s entirely possible, hired hands are hard to come by in rural regions afflicted by snow-bound isolation.

All things considered, grief of loss and the guilt of not being the Perfect Mom and the Perfect Psychotherapist compels Dr Portman to also take in little Tom, a problem child who has been passed around a string of foster parents and is deaf to boot.

Perfectly cast as Tom, Tremblay is a little boy with huge natural born talent. Watts is reliable as usual as is the supporting cast, notably Platt and Heaton. The scare factor is further boosted by the judicious use of eerie orchestral music, spooky lighting, and jumpy camerawork/editing to generate startling scares. Shut In may not leave the viewer terrorized; but jittery, yes, certainly.