Bad movies aren’t bad by intent.
The team making “Shut In” had the Oscar-nominated star of “The Ring,” Naomi Watts, a big, creepy violent kids, a remote, old and creaky house isolated by a winter storm and menace from spooky things she cannot rationally believe.
And it doesn’t work. Not for more than a few minutes, anyway. But they had the bare bones to build a passable if routine thriller here, if they’d known what they were doing.
Watts plays Mary, a child psychologist in suburban Maine. Pay no attention to the assistant and patients with French accents. It was cheaper to film in Quebec and that’s that.
She’s just lost her husband in a car wreck on his way to take his son (Charlie Heaton) to an institution. Stephen is a violent kid with impulse control issues.
Or he was. The accident left him paralyzed and catatonic, and Mary is his sole caregiver. She’s overwhelmed and depressed by that and ready to place him somewhere else. Her own shrink, Dr. Wilson (Oliver Platt) agrees, via Facetime, that this might be the right thing to do.
“You can’t save every child in Maine,” her assistant burbles in her Not-a-Mainer accent.
Tom, a deaf nine-year old patient (Jacob Tremblay) has some of Stephen’s tendencies. He too can be violent. Mary thinks he’s save-able, but his mom is moving him elsewhere.
Then, as a winter storm approaches, Tom escapes from his parents and breaks into Mary’s SUV. Her efforts to resolve this send the kid fleeing into the wintry night. And that’s when the weird noises in the house and her nightmares begin.
Mary’s frantic online sessions with her shrink earn scientific explanations and dismissals.
“Please please you have to believe me!”
But someone, or something, is in the house with her and means to do her harm. Tom’s ghost? Stephen’s malicious spirit?
The film’s best fright comes via Skype — something Dr. Wilson glimpses. Most every other scare is manufactured and fake.
It’s the sort of movie where you understand every character, his or her function and their fate the first time you meet them. Even if it was perfectly executed, this was never going to surprise. The fact that it’s a bit of a hash means we never, for one second, buy into anything supernatural, means we are several steps ahead of our heroine from start to finish.
And that’s why “Shut In” fails.
Naomi Watts deserves better than this. So does Oliver Platt. So do we.
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for terror and some violence/bloody images, nudity, thematic elements and brief strong language
Cast: Naomi Watts, Charlie Heaton, Oliver Platt, Jacob Tremblay
Credits:Directed by Farren Blackburn , script by Christina Hodson. A EuropaCorp release.
Running time: 1:31