Review: ‘Shut In’ Ought to be Shut Off


Warning! Complete and total Shut In spoilers in below review.

The race for 2016’s worst plot twist in a tough competition, but Shut In might take the prize for a development so dumb – and yet so strangely predictable – that it must be seen to be believed.

Better yet, I’ll save you the time.

Naomi Watts stars as Mary Portman, a child psychologist who lives and works in an isolated winter cabin. It’s the perfect location to take kids with learning disabilities.

In the film’s first scene, Mary’s husband is killed and her stepson (Stranger Things’ Charlie Heaton) left in a vegetative state after a car crash while driving the teenage boy, expelled from high school, to an undisclosed location away from the family.

That leaves Mary to care for the young boy 24-hours a day: dressing him, feeding him, and sticking him in front of the television while the drool slowly drips from the corner of his mouth.

Later, young deaf boy Tom (Room’s Jacob Tremblay) stows away in Mary’s car after his guardian aims to end their sessions. He’s still there through the middle of the night, but runs off into the woods after Mary spooks him. 

You might expect this development to lead to an intensive search for the young deaf boy in the woods surrounding Mary’s house. The area is covered in knee-deep snow, meaning his footprints should be easily traced.

Nope. No search for missing deaf boy, only creepy things going bump in the night to freak out Mary. Is it young Tom, still in her house? Is it his ghost, haunting Mary after he has died in the woods? Is she hallucinating? Having nightmares?

Wrong on all counts. Would you believe that (last exit before spoilers)…

It’s her stepson Stephen, who has been faking his vegetable-like state for months in order to, uh, spend more time with his mother. Uh-huh.

I had given up on the hopelessly inept Shut In well before this point, but the filmmakers (director Farren Blackburn and debut scribe Christina Hodson) push it into comedy with this development. Then the movie continues for another half hour as Stephen chases his mother around the house.

Half of that time is spent on exposition, with the film bringing in another psychologist (played by Oliver Platt) to help try explain the ridiculous twist to the audience. It doesn’t help.

Platt seems to be playing the same character he did in Sinister, appearing in the film via Skype videochat (hey, saves on production costs) until he sees… something in the background! And then pulls a Scatman Crothers from The Shining.

After The Boy wowed audiences with its ridiculous twist earlier in 2016, it was going to be tough to top. But Shut In has managed something special here.

Shut In


Jason Pirodsky

Jason Pirodsky

Jason Pirodsky has been writing about the Prague film scene and reviewing films in print and online media since 2005. A member of the Online Film Critics Society, you can also catch his musings on life in Prague at and tips on mindfulness sourced from ancient principles at

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