A Hollywood landmark, emptied by COVID, stir crazy newlyweds and some strange disappearances from the hotel’s register are nightmare fuel for “Shelter in Place,” a seriously slow psychological horror tale bathed in blood…eventually.
Sarah and John, played by Tatjana Marjanovic of “TV’s “Purgatory” and Brendan Hines (“MacGuyver”) are the “only guests” at the historic Roosevelt Hotel, trapped there as the airlines, then the state and finally the country go into lockdown.
John may wax poetic about the original home for the Academy Awards and busy himself with swimming and drinks by the pool, bowling and drinks by the alley, drinks in the bar and a bottle in their room. And Sarah may go on and on about “gratitude” as a vlogger and online social influencer, fielding lucrative offers to “video my feet” among other deals-in-the-making. But yes, this sheltering-in-place is getting to them.
“Life inside is for HERMITS!”
It’s not that they feel guilty about trapping two staff — forced to stay there and stay on duty with them. Manager, concierge and bartender Ty (Kevin Daniels) keeps his public face friendly, and maid-and-by-necessity-cook Adela (Ola Kaminska) is a model of flirtatious efficiency, if no great shakes as a chef.
But Sarah has just run out of her stress pills. And John is getting entirely too used to a “What, me worry?” life of indolence and alcohol.
And they didn’t see the film’s first scene, in which a creepy poolside entrepreneur-bro was lured into a room with blinding light, only to crawl out, tattered and bloody, facing a future of death or handcuffs, we can’t figure out which will be worse.
Former “Saturday Night Live” crew-members turned writer-directors Chris Beyrooty and Connor Martin stumble through their first feature, shifting points of view, giving the audience more information than our protagonists but never really making us fear for their safety.
Because John is a drunk, and when he’s polished off a bottle of Jack Daniels truth serum, his description of pretty poseur Sarah is savagely on the mark.
“Little Princess f—–g HAPPY pants” is the “queen of curated narcissism.”
He is tactless, boorish and not-that-clued-in to their surroundings. Nosey Sarah is the one who starts to perceive a threat — reading through the hotel’s register, seeing names crossed out and one, aside from her and John, that isn’t, and spying on Polish Adela.
“I get it. I’m the creepy maid.“
The empty hallways, nearly-empty bar scene and big, echoing lobby give off the faintest whiff of “The Shining,” a notion that lasts, alas, but an instant. The pacing doesn’t build dread, the characters don’t build empathy.
In a movie in which Ty reminds us of mid-lockdown boredom, when “time doesn’t seem to matter any more,” “Shelter in Place” makes one keenly aware of the time it’s taking to get to its point, to pick up the pulse if not the pace.
We know something awful’s coming. Martin and Beyrooty may eventually get to their bloody denouement. But they do a very poor job of holding the viewer’s interest, of convincing us that “What’s out there is scarier than what’s in here.”
Rating: unrated, violence, alcohol abuse, profanity
Cast: Tatjana Marjanovic, Brendan Hines, Kevin Daniels and Ola Kaminska
Credits: Scripted and directed by Chris Beyrooty and Connor Martin. A 1091 release.
Running time: 1:29