Anna the agoraphobic [Beth Riesgraf] is our protagonist in American drama-horror, Shut In, directed by Adam Schindler. However, this fact about our leading lady made me a little uncomfortable from the outset, although I’ll admit, suitably intrigued too.

Already having a tough time with her phobia of the outside world, Anna Rook is hit harder when her only remaining family member, her brother, succumbs to cancer. Anna is left alone in a large Victorian house on the outskirts of town imprisoned by her own anxieties. Cheery meals-on-wheels driver, Dan, played by the instantly recognisable Rory Culkin is her only contact with the outside world and they have an understanding that meanders on the edge of awkward romance.

Things soon take a turn for the worse when three local chancers catch wind of Anna’s hoard of cash in the house. Wrongly assuming she will be at her brother’s funeral, they break into the cavernous house. Anna is trapped by the trio who soon realise she won’t run due to her phobia of going outside.

It was at this moment, when the sociopathic one of the three archetypical small town criminals forces Anna outside I thought Shut In may reveal an awesome reason as to why Anna has been labelled ‘agoraphobic’ for us. I assumed with her screaming and scratching to get back inside the sunlight or air was dangerous to her in some way. Was she about to turn into a monster? A shadowy ghoul or vampire that would burst into flames? I know those ideas sound corny, but I couldn’t see where the film would go with three petty thieves tormenting an agoraphobic. It seemed a little boring, and rather crass.

Then like all games of home invasion cat and mouse, meek and mild mousey Anna turns the tables on her home invaders and reveals that she is perfectly equipped to deal with unwanted house guests with harsh consequences. Interestingly, like Anna, the house is not all that it seems with Anna being able to move seamlessly unseen throughout the large house. An attention-grabbing twist on home invasion of course, and Beth Riesgraf’s performance switching from anxiety ridden to cold hearted with glimmers of morality was superb as was the dark and sprawling house. Riesgraf held my attention from start to finish, but I’m afraid it was Shut In’s lazy plot or perhaps more so distasteful message that left me a little dissatisfied.

Shut In flips the usual home invasion tropes of lone girl in the house hiding and fighting her tormentors and ultimately coming out trumps. However, the reasoning for Anna’s ability to flip on the men to me felt inappropriate. Whilst I could accept that the character of Anna was made agoraphobic to help the narrative move along and keep her in the house with her captors, I was disappointed with the idea that agoraphobia was ‘the least of her psychoses’.

Mental illness is a common trope used in horror to facilitate or justify behaviour and it treads a rocky road in doing so but I feel Shut In oversteps the mark by not only labelling Anna as someone suffering from mental illness but then also giving the audience the backstory which has led to her psychological demise. It made Anna seem less of a calculating murderess, killing for the thrill, and more a character who was suffering personally and needed help. I felt sorry for her, even when she had wreaked havoc and taught her captors a lesson…

 

Frightfest London review: Shut In
2.5Overall Score
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About The Author

Emily Stockham

Emily is from South London and has a degree in English Literature. Emily is a marketing assistant who writes about films and music in her spare time. Horror and grindhouse are her thing - although she will happily watch anything if it means a trip to the cinema.