TADFF 2015: Shut In
Anna (Beth Riesgraf) suffers from a severe case of agoraphobia, one that has prohibited her from leaving her house for the past ten years. Her phobia is so crippling that her only source of human interaction comes from her dying brother Conrad (Timothy T. McKinney) and a local delivery boy named Danny (Rory Culkin). When a trio of criminals – J.P. (Jack Kesy), Harry (Martin Starr), and Vance (Joshua Mikel) – break into Anna’s home, and realize that she is unable to flee when given the opportunity, all signs point to an easy payday for the group. However, when Anna get the impression that her captors may not let her live as initially promised, she has no choice but to let her true nature show.
Quickly turning the tables on the unsuspecting trio, Anna sets in motion a series of events that show home is more than merely were the heart is. Revealing her house to be a fun house of terror, the thugs find themselves in a desperate fight for their survival.
Following in the steps of other female empowering home invasion films, such as Panic Room and more recently You’re Next, Adam Schindler’s Shut In takes great pleasure in watching the once shy Anna evolve into a ruthless butt-kicking heroine. Anna administers such a blood curdling comeuppance that, for a brief moment at least, the viewer actually feels a tinge of pity for the intruders. Riesgraf delivers a wonderful performance, one in which she skillfully displays both Anna’s bloodlust and her emotional vulnerability, that makes it hard not to root for Anna even when her actions may be crossing the line.
Where Shut In runs into problems is in its attempt to be something greater than a film in which the audience watches a women slowly torture her would-be captors. It is in Schindler’s quest to explain how Anna came to posses such an elaborate home, complete with a moving staircase, where the narrative stumbles through its own trap door. What starts off as a gripping thriller soon dissolves into a predictable tale of repentance akin to the Saw franchise. Anna is not simply putting the men through the ringer for kicks, she is trying to teach them a lesson, make them openly atone for their sins.
Unfortunately by time Anna’s past is revealed, the film’s ridiculous leaps in logic are simply too gaping to ignore. This is only emphasized further by the nonsensical choices the characters make in the last act. Decisions that serve no other purpose than to set up the final battle, whose outcome audiences will see coming from a mile away. While it is always nice to see directors showcasing kick-ass female characters on the big screen, Shut In lacks the cohesive story to sustain its premise.