Once set-up at New Line Cinemas with Jason Bateman planned to direct, Melissa Toast's Blacklist script Shut In has instead worked its way into The Daily Wire universe where it's set to mark the conservative media site's first foray into original film with a special free broadcast on Youtube for one night only on February 10th. Now directed by D.J. Caruso (Disturbia), Shut In is an indie thriller about a young mother (Rainey Qualley, Love In the Time of Corona) who is held captive in her pantry by a violent ex-boyfriend (Jake Horowitz, The Vast of Night) and his meth-addicted, even more threatening friend (Vincent Gallo, Buffalo '66). In order to survive and save the lives of her two small children, it will take all the ingenuity she has to escape before it's too late.
While the film has attracted the attention of the indie crowd due to the unexpected return of Gallo to feature films after nearly ten years away, it has attracted an equal amount of attention, if not more, due to the presence of conservative commentator Ben Shapiro as one of the film's producers.
It may be most surprising then that Shut In is a surprisingly straightforward domestic thriller, a film that wrestles more with moral quandaries than political ones and a film that does look squarely in the eyes of faith as Qualley's Jessica wrestles with finding the emotional and physical strength to survive a life that has obviously been anything but easy. Qualley, daughter of actress Andie MacDowell and 2012's Miss Golden Globe, makes for a compelling figure as Jessica, a committed mother whose life appears to be falling apart all around here and whose wary eye is seemingly always looking out for the return of her ex-boyfriend, Rob. While there's never any doubt that Rob is going to return, when he does the tension in Shut In amps up aided by effective original music by Mondo Boys and the suffocating lens of Akis Konstantakopoulos.
Horowitz portrays Rob as more quietly threatening, possessing of the kind of simmering rage that is unpredictable yet palpable in its presence. The domestic violence thread is undeniable here and Horowitz vividly captures the absolute uncertainty of being with a man whose volatility is easily triggered without provocation.
It's unclear what drew Gallo to Shut In after a several year absence from feature films, though any return of Gallo is good news and he takes what could have easily been a one-note performance and turns it into a symphony of menace and mayhem.
It should be noted again that Shut In is not a political film. Instead, the film explores themes of values, family, redemption, and second chances. I'd be hesitant to call it any actual faith-based film, however, there's no denying faith inspires certain elements of how the story unfolds. The film somewhat reminds me of George Johnson's Thy Neighbor, a rare faith-based film that was very much an action-thriller though certainly less gritty and raw than this film.
Qualley is a tremendous choice to carry the lead here, equally convincing as someone who has strayed from her own personal values and path yet someone who essentially seems to be a good person whom you can't help but root for throughout the film's just shy of 90-minute running time. While Shut In occasionally crosses the line into histrionics and is for the most part surprisingly predictable given its presence on the Blacklist, it's also a film that is relentless in both its rawness and in its belief in the possibility of redemption.
The will to live is found within is a theme that rises to the surface over and over again throughout Shut In, a lesson that shows itself in a myriad of ways, some quite obvious, throughout the film and throughout Jessica's determination to save herself and save her children.
Shut In is presented by Bonfire Legend (Bone Tomahawk), and while the February 10th screening is exclusively for U.S. audiences it is being marketed internationally by Voltage Pictures.
Written by Richard Propes
The Independent Critic