Aside from featuring Naomi Watts in its lead role, there’s little that separates the “edge of sleep” thriller Shut In from a weak made-for-TV melodrama. Watts plays Mary Portman, a widowed child psychologist caring for her paralyzed 18-year-old stepson, Stephen (Stranger Things’ Charlie Heaton). She grows increasingly concerned when one of her young patients goes missing. (He continues to appear in her dreams.) As Mary loses sleep, her paranoia worsens, yet Christina Hodson’s monotonous script fails to make Mary’s psychological struggles feel any more severe than a case of misplaced keys.
Creaks on the stairs lead Mary to believe something is inside the house, haunting her and Stephen: Shut In runs through every clichéd horror fake-out, from elaborate nightmare sequences to raccoons suddenly emerging from a trashcan. Clangs on the soundtrack attempt to create tension where none exists. Shut In seeks to emulate the anxiety of balancing grief with caring for a child that was done so successfully in The Babadook, but it lacks any sense of growing dread—much less the threat of danger—until its final, predictable act.
Even after the plot makes a sleazy pivot, Shut In lacks the conviction to allow that B-movie element to run its course. Instead, the movie delivers a rote, climactic chase through Mary’s rural home, relying on circumstantial timing. Farren Blackburn’s uninspired direction elicits fewer than two emotions from the majority of his cast. Watts does her usual commendable job with the flatly written character but ultimately, as the title would suggest, she runs into a wall.
BY: ZACH SHEVICH