LAFF 2015 Review: SHUT IN

2015/06/18 18:55:28 +00:00 | Heather Wixson

What’s meant to be a simple home robbery goes wrong in every conceivable way in Adam Schindler’s Shut In, an intense horror thriller that cleverly plays with the traditional ideas of cinematic heroes and villains and features a breakout performance from Beth Riesgraf, who does a brilliant job with her quietly heartbreaking performance that often seamlessly teeters between total naiveté and blistering madness. As far as home invasion stories go, Shut In does a nice job of mixing things up a bit by taking a few familiar genre tropes and giving them a brutal twist. You’re left wondering who should be afraid of who by the time the finale rolls around.

Shut In is centered around Anna (Riesgraf), an agoraphobic who hasn’t left her home in over a decade and has been tasked with caring for her older brother, who is succumbing to cancer. After he passes, Anna’s left feeling lost in a world she knows nothing about, but that’s the least of her problems—during her brother’s funeral, three thieves (Jack Kesy, Martin Starr, Joshua Mikel) break into her home expecting it to be empty. But once they figure out that Anna’s still there, the real games begin between the criminals and our heroine as the trio soon learns that just because someone suffers from a crippling disease like agoraphobia, that doesn’t mean they don’t have a strong sense of survival.

Something I thought was rather refreshing about a film like Shut In is that despite the fact that the story’s initial concept of a home invasion is something most horror fans are very familiar with, co-writers T.J. Cimfel and David White manage to frame their characters and find a few new ways to take their story to some unexpected places, effectively adding a lot of complexity and surprises to Shut In. Throughout the film, we also see the dynamic between Anna and the trio of invaders inside her home consistently shift back and forth, often asking us to empathize with the traditional villains who are far more fleshed out here than we usually see in genre films. It’s a nice touch that subtly adds so much more emotional footing to the story—sure, Anna is suffering and we do feel bad for her, but what these guys lose feels just as impactful as well.

Riesgraf’s performance as Anna in Shut In is nothing short of amazing, with the actress somehow pulling the role off with a sort of quiet childlike stoicism, almost like a 12-year-old who acts and talks like they’re 30. Even though in many ways Anna’s broken and emotionally stilted, she’s still an intelligent, manipulative and powerful person who found strength within her own weaknesses over the years, making Anna a type of character we don’t often see. Starr, an actor generally known for his comedic work in films like Knocked Up and Superbad (also on HBO’s Silicon Valley as of late) does a 180 here with a ferociously unhinged turn and Rory Culkin (one of my favorites) also makes an appearance in the film, too, which I also enjoyed as there’s definitely more going on with his character than we’re first led to believe.

As far as indie genre films go, Shut In is a great reminder that you can take a familiar idea and still find new ways to surprise viewers when you infuse your story with a few inventive swerves. When you also have an assured director at the helm and the perfect cast in front of the camera, it all makes for a standout feature film debut from Schindler and a satisfying thriller that proves sometimes the most fragile people are truly the most dangerous.

Movie Rating: 4/5

  • Heather Wixson
    About the Author - Heather Wixson

    Heather A. Wixson was born and raised in the Chicago suburbs, until she followed her dreams and moved to Los Angeles in 2009. A 14-year veteran in the world of horror entertainment journalism, Wixson fell in love with genre films at a very early age, and has spent more than a decade as a writer and supporter of preserving the history of horror and science fiction cinema. Throughout her career, Wixson has contributed to several notable websites, including Fangoria, Dread Central, Terror Tube, and FEARnet, and she currently serves as the Managing Editor for Daily Dead, which has been her home since 2013. She's also written for both Fangoria Magazine & ReMind Magazine, and her latest book project, Monsters, Makeup & Effects: Volume One will be released on October 20, 2021.