From Disturbia and Eagle Eye director D.J. Caruso comes the first original feature from The Daily Wire, psychological horror thriller, Shut In. Teeming with symbology and a terrific leading turn from Rainey Qualley, the film aims to prove the power of familial bonds, courage, and determination can overcome any obstacle. The situation at the heart of the story is enough to drive any parent to their breaking point. Following the choices a single mother must make along the way in order to escape this hellish scenario makes for a supremely entertaining (and frequently touching) little movie.
Fresh out of a stint at rehab, Jessica (Qualley) is right on the cusp of making a smooth getaway off to Texas with her two young children. Jessica’s grandmother left her the family house when she passed away, but in the wake of addiction struggles and a tumultuous relationship, it may be time to make a clean break. The only thing she has left is to clean out the pantry and pack the car. As Jessica prepares to leave, D.J. Caruso does a terrific job at layering on the foreshadowing and building up suspense well before anything suspenseful is actually happening onscreen.
As Jessica grabs her bible from the pantry, the door swings shut and locks her inside. The only surefire way out seems to be guiding her daughter, Lainey (Luciana VanDette), into opening the heavy door from the other side. However, the arrival of her junkie ex-boyfriend, Rob (Jake Horowitz), and his pedophilic best friend, Sammy (Vincent Gallo), saves Jessica this time around. Her saviors turn against her though when Sammy provokes Rob into locking Jessica back into the pantry. Rob nails the pantry shut with 2×4’s, and one of the nails pierces right through Jessica’s hand, instantly drawing blood. Lainey manages to lock both herself and her infant brother in the room upstairs; Rob and Sammy leave for the night with the promise of returning soon.
Caruso directs the sharp script from Melanie Toast with particular emphasis on the visuals, cueing in on important items and aspects to the plot. In this way, it reminded me of 2016’s Don’t Breathe, in which director Fede Alvarez plays up the foreshadowing to nauseating effect and maximum eventual payoff. The viewer is only hearing and seeing Jessica’s viewpoint from inside the pantry while she is trapped, leaving the remainder up to one’s imagination with impeccable sound design.
The situation grows more dire by the second, as there appears to be no possible way for Jessica to escape her confined space. Jessica must scrounge around what remains in the pantry: her grandmother’s preserved apple butter. She makes it into meals for Lainey and the baby, passing plates and supplies underneath the slit in the door. Far-too-young Lainey is forced to be an adult and care for the baby while her mom is incapacitated. If endangered children are triggers for any viewer, Shut In may prove a difficult watch.
As the movie propels into an exciting climax, intense confrontations and the willingness to do whatever it takes to survive an impossible situation take center stage. Shut In goes to brutal lengths on its way to reach this endgame, but it makes that conclusion all the sweeter. In the hands of a capable director that celebrates the beauty and complexities of motherhood, Shut In breaks loose from its genre trappings. I find it interesting to contemplate the direction Jason Bateman, who was once attached to the project, would have taken things; however, D.J. Caruso was undoubtedly the right man for the job.
Shut In cracks open the apple butter when it premieres for free on YouTube on Thursday, February 10th at 9pm.