Wednesday, November 16, 2016

In Theaters: SHUT IN (2016)

(France/Canada - 2016)

Directed by Farren Blackburn. Written by Christina Hodson. Cast: Naomi Watts, Oliver Platt, Charlie Heaton, Jacob Tremblay, David Cubitt, Clementine Poidatz, Peter Outerbridge, Crystal Balint, Alex Braunstein. (PG-13, 91 mins)

Two-time Oscar nominee Naomi Watts gives this lazy and illogical thriller a lot more than it deserves, delivering a strong performance that makes you wish the people on the creative side gave as much of a shit as she does. Watts is Dr. Mary Portman, a child psychologist with a practice at her isolated rural Maine home, allowing her to be the full-time caregiver for her 18-year-old stepson Stephen (STRANGER THINGS' Charlie Heaton), who was left quadriplegic and brain-damaged after a car accident that took the life of his father (Peter Outerbridge) six months earlier. Expelled from school for reasons that the film never explains, Stephen was being taken to an institution for some tough love by his father when an argument and distracted driving led them left of center and head-on into a speeding semi. One of Mary's patients is Tom (ROOM's Jacob Tremblay), a deaf, nine-year-old orphan who's about to be sent to another facility after too many violent outbursts. That night, Tom appears at Mary's front door. She takes him in, but while she's waiting for the authorities to arrive to claim him, he vanishes. Soon after, Mary is plagued by nightmares in which she sees Tom in the house. That, along with footsteps and clanging noises in the middle of the night, convinces her that Tom is dead and his ghost is haunting the house. Her nerves already frazzled over making the difficult decision to move Stephen into a facility since he's becoming too much for her to handle solo, Mary begins to fear she's losing her mind. Then there's the big twist, because of course there is.

It's not exactly the most ringing endorsement to say that as far as dumb thrillers go, SHUT IN is almost a halfway decent Netflix & Chill pick if you don't want to run the risk of the movie actually being good, thereby expediting you to the Chill part of the evening. The plot twist is completely ludicrous and requires multiple doctors and other medical professionals to fall asleep on the job in gross negligence, but that's OK when Christina Hodson's script gives Mary a throwaway line to explain it all away. SHUT IN is a film that can't even do the bare minimum, whether it's somehow failing to create any chilly suspense out of an isolated, blizzard-like snowy setting, the cops not even pursuing the possibility that the missing Tom is still in the house, or the big Plot Convenience Playhouse corner-cutter that comes from an EXORCIST III-inspired jump scare witnessed by Mary's colleague/shrink Dr. Wilson (Oliver Platt, Facetiming most of his performance in from what appears to be his agent's office), a profoundly stupid moment that shows neither Hodson nor British TV vet Farren Blackburn, the director with a name most likely to belong to a GAME OF THRONES villain, have any idea how Skype works. The film hints at the paranormal, but ends up at the completely ordinary, turning into another rote home invasion/psycho-thriller, with a hammer-and-axe-wielding madman chasing victims through the house like a dimmer SHINING, complete with a potential rescuer who makes a long, arduous journey in a dangerous snow-and-ice storm only to get immediately impaled by a claw hammer for his trouble. Platt almost literally phones it in, Heaton is stuck with an unplayable character, young Tremblay, so terrific in ROOM, has nothing to do, and Watts single-handedly elevates the entire project, bringing her A-game because she's a pro who should be getting better starring vehicles than this. SHUT IN is a mess, a possible sign of trouble being a large section of the closing credits devoted to "Reshoots Montreal," but it does get some bonus points because "Farren Blackburn" is a fucking great name.

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