SHUT IN (
directed by D J Caruso
starring Rainey Qualley, Jake Horowitz, Vincent Gallo
Jessica (Qualley) is in recovery and is holed up in her grandmother’s house which she is selling in order to get herself and her kids away from her still using drug addled ex. Most of the house is packed up and ready to go. The place is a kind of decrepit, but still stylish, huge sprawling dump in the middle of a cinematic rural nowhere. The kind of place that only exists in these kind of films.
Jessica’s annoying daughter keeps bringing her apples but they are mostly rotten. These apples litter the house. These Edenic apples are only the first of the heavy handed religious metaphors to litter the screen.
For no apparent reason Jessica manages to get herself locked inside the very large pantry. She’s in there for 10 minutes and even her shouted instructions to the annoying daughter can’t get her out. There’s a baby upstairs too. It’s a minor source of tension for the viewer somewhat countered by their not quite understanding how she got shut in in the first place.
Great news. Her ex Rob (Horowitz) appears and lets her out. Bad news he’s with his pal Sammy (Gallo) a convicted child molester. Badder news, Jessica is so pissed off that Rob has turned up with Sammy, who Gallo plays as a monstrous one dimensional cartoon villain, that they get into an argument and he shuts her in the pantry. Again. Only this time he hammers some handy floorboards against the door so she can’t get out at all. And one of the nails goes straight through her palm. If there hadn’t been an over large crucifix hanging up in the pantry that the camera panned to slowly I might have missed the symbolism. Though less astute viewers get plenty of opportunities to catch up as the crucifix is later used by Jessica as a tool to try to dig her way out. And just to double down there’s also a bible in there which she is surprised to find contains numerous $100 bills hidden in its pages.
Without wishing to blow the whole plot for would be watchers it should come as no surprise that Sammy returns to threaten the kids whilst Jessica is still trapped in the pantry. For some ridiculous reason he stretches his arm under the fortuitously large gap at the bottom of the door and gets his hand impaled to the floor by the feisty Jessica. So Gallo plays half his role pinned to the floor where he can growl away as Jessica ignores every obvious ploy to escape with the tools at her disposal and attempts to dig through the floor. There are many more illogical actions by her but I’ll leave those as a surprise.
A word for Qualley in all of this. She’s actually pretty good. It’s a thankless role with terrible dialogue and painfully clichéd characterisation but what she delivers is way better than the film deserves.
Usually I don’t bother reviewing films I really dislike. It’s hard to make a film. Any kind of film. And sometimes with the best will in the world and 100% effort from everybody involved the film gets away from its creators and just turns out bad. That’s not really the case here. There was something a little off for Shut In from the start but I didn’t know that when I watched it. I took it at face value and it was just a turkey. That it was the first original feature of reactionary conservative media empire The Daily Wire’s new production wing (because apparently Hollywood is too fixated on “woke” pictures) didn’t colour my judgement as it had other reviewers. I watched it because Gallo was in it and I hadn’t seen him in a while and most often his movies are either good or interesting. Not this time. He hadn’t made a film in almost ten years. It’s hard to work out why he would come back for this. He likes money so I hope he got paid well. He likes annoying the liberals so perhaps it was that.
Shut In is an extremely basic domestic invasion thriller. Originally scheduled to be made by Jason Bateman, Melissa Toast’s script had appeared on the so called Blacklist of the best unproduced screenplays. Whether Bateman’s film would’ve been better is hard to call but I can’t imagine Caruso deliberately decided to add his own dismal dialogue, paper thin characters and ludicrous plotholes so I imagine they all existed in the script already. The ridiculous religious symbolism may have been a late addition to pander to the conservative right’s bizarre misconceptions as to the message of the story of Jesus Christ.
For UK readers I’m going to guess that the Daily Wire connection would be a little like if GB News started making films. There’s an agenda and it’s got to be shoehorned in whether it fits or not. But I wouldn’t want Farage or that Scottish historian in charge of commissioning feature films. Jeremy Boreing, Daily Wire co-founder, alongside Ben Shapiro who are both producers on this, announced their film plans by saying, “If you’re fed-up with the cultural edicts of our country’s self-appointed moral overlords in Hollywood and legacy media, stay tuned.” I’m not sure how enthusiastic the staying tuned will be after this. And their next feature is a vehicle for Gina Carano.
Shut In is available now on digital platforms in the USA.
It is released in the UK on May 30th
Kirk Lake is a writer, musician and filmmaker. His published books include Mickey The Mimic (2015) and The Last Night of the Leamington Licker (2018). His films include the feature films Piercing Brightness (2014) and The World We Knew (2020) and a number of award winning shorts.
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