Shut In (2022)
Directed by: DJ Caruso | 89 minutes | thriller | Actors: Rainey Qualley, Jake Horowitz, Luciana VanDette, Vincent Gallo, Mahboub Hosseinzadeh, Penelope Martone, Aidan Steimer
A dilapidated house in an abandoned area where telephones have no signal often promises to be a good setting for a thriller. In ‘Shut In’ (DJ Caruso, 2022) we see Rainey Qualley, the daughter of actress Andie MacDowell, as Jessica, a young single mother who tries to leave her life as a drug addict. She has to leave her late grandmother’s house, surrounded by an orchard, because the environment cannot provide her with financial stability. On the day of departure, her only task is to clear out an old pantry. However, the door of this cabinet cannot be opened from the inside. When it accidentally snaps shut behind her and her still-addicted ex-boyfriend, Rob (Jake Horowitz) comes along, she has to fight not only for her own life, but also that of her two children.
Apples play an important role in this film. They set the tone in the beginning when daughter Lainey (Luciana VanDette) tries to find the perfect apple for her mother. But every apple she brings to her mother is rotten inside and ends up in a pull cart in the hallway with many others. Jessica then explains to her daughter that even though the apples look good on the outside, they are bad on the inside. Lainey later applies this concept by asking if her mother and father are evil. In this sense, the film suggests a distinction between bad people who want to improve their lives (apples with bad spots) and are therefore essentially good and bad people who can no longer be saved (apples that are completely rotten inside). With a slight religious undertone to the film, it is not surprising that apples are the carrier of this message. At the same time, the apple is also symbolic of the temptation that must be resisted, namely a drug relapse.
As a thriller ‘Shut In’ is very well put together. The combination of the orchard and the dilapidated house already sets the right tone. The film also contains a beautiful cinematography, with an attractive use of color. The tension is in over-the-shoulder shots, among other things, so it is not clear where the danger lies and when it will appear. The film keeps the suspense extra high by keeping the perspective with Jessica when she’s locked in the closet. The viewer is thus taken into her desperate feeling to be released and is confronted with the feeling of being stuck. This film is therefore less suitable for people with claustrophobia.
Where the film falls short is the logic of the course of events. For example, there’s a fairly large slit under the cabinet door that the script doesn’t handle very carefully. Jessica also lacks just enough perseverance as a character to try to escape from the closet. She communicates a lot with her daughter, but the chemistry between the two is missing in the film. Communication between the two has been strained from the start, which may be on purpose because Jessica has been absent from her life for a while. But it still creates a barrier to generating enough empathy for Jessica. ‘Shut In’ lacks no tension, but could be appreciated a bit better with a more logical script.