Movie Review: Shut In


This movie managed to somehow defy expectations—for the better. It has a talented cast and stars Naomi Watts who plays Mary Portman, a widowed child psychologist with a disabled son. As the winter storm approaches her New England town, she needs to find one of her young patients whose gone missing. Despite a rather basic premise  the film plays out more intriguingly than one might assume.

Watts is serviceable as the lead and manages to shine despite it not being the typical serious fare she takes part in. Jacob Tremblay plays the young deaf patient Tom that Watts’s character takes special care of with Charlie Heaton as Steven Portman, the disabled sonan important character in the film not to be overlooked.

I liked the psychological aspect the film touched upon. Mary has nightmares and visions she can’t seem to control. She seeks help in a colleague and friend played by Oliver Platt. The idea of a psychologist dealing with psychological issues and seeking help was an important storytelling tool for Shut In. Elements like that add a touch of reality and extra layers to the film.

The film starts out slow and it doesn’t necessarily point in any particular direction. I started drawing cliche conclusions about what sort of a movie this was going to be, and I was definitely wrong. This movie veers in one direction due to the set up that comes later. It’s somewhat difficult to describe it without revealing the twist, which changes the entire direction of the film.

Shut In has a twist that will make you gasp! I didn’t see it coming, and when it happens, things get real. I appreciated the film for not trying to be cliche and go for the obvious easy ghost scares. The sense of reality is the biggest scare the movie provides. If you’re hoping for Shut In to get you constantly jumping and give you legitimate scares, then you’re better off seeing The Conjuring. This film is a lot more psychologically centered. It’s the mind that plays tricks and makes things feel uneasy, which the film captures nicely.

The major twist is worth the price of admission, with the moments of reality separating it from other horror thrillers. The psychological aspect put it beyond surface-level quality. The drawbacks are the lack of genuinely scary moments and the sustainability of suspense. The unknown that surrounded Mary wasn’t dangerous enough to have me fearing for her at every moment. This movie could have been pulled off without Tom, who was given a lot more focus than earned or deserved. When it comes to the movie title, Shut In, it doesn’t give the ideal representation of what happens in the plot. Sure the characters are trapped or “shut in” the home due to a storm, but there is a lot more to it. I would have gone with something like Inside My Mind or Psyched Out, which would be a lot more descriptive of the film’s story, but Shut In it is.

Overall, Watts does nice work taking the character to places where it tricks the viewer. Is she crazy and losing her mind, or is she sane and rational? Those are the questions her character poses to the viewer. The film had some elements of the movie The Boy, which I didn’t mind. Shut In is a thriller with thrilling moments that will widen your eyes. The ending is a little too formulaic and cheap, but payoff of the twist justifies it enough to make it digestible. The runtime is ideal at 91 minutesit doesn’t drag, and accomplishes what it needs to. I was pleasantly surprised by the film and its set-up and execution of the plot, which ends up working in the end.

Rating: 6/10

Jim Alexander is one of the co-founders of the Chicago Independent Film Critics Circle (CIFCC). He has been a staff writer at since 2014. He helped develop and host the “Correct Opinion Podcast.” Jim has written for and contributed to the Australian movie site He is the United States Film and Entertainment Reporter for BBC’s 5 Live radio show. In addition to his interest in film, he also hosts the “Bachelor Universe” blog and podcast, centered on the ABC show The Bachelor. Jim graduated with a MA in Journalism from DePaul University. He is a die-hard Chicago Bulls and Bears fan. Born in Chicago, but raised in Poland, he grew up playing soccer and remains an avid fan of the sport. He is passionate about film and strives to incorporate new and innovative ways to present film criticism. He currently resides in a suburb outside of Chicago, IL.