FrightFest 2015 reaction: Shut In

Almost 20 years after Scream bemoaned the fact that the typical horror movie girl is always “running up the stairs when she should be running out the front door”, Shut In gives us a heroine who categorically cannot run out of the house when danger comes calling.

The fact that our lead character suffers from crippling agoraphobia isn't the only cleverly inverted genre trope in debut director Adam Schindler's brutal nail-biter. Yanking the rug out from under home-invasion-weary audiences numerous times, this is a horror movie that has seen all the horror movies that annoyed (and thrilled) you in the past, and it's not afraid to go to extreme lengths in the pursuit of something new.

The straight-forward set-up is terror at its Hitchcockian best. Thirty-something agoraphobe Anna Rook (Beth Riesgraf) hasn't left the house in 10 years, even when the death of her older brother Conrad (Timothy T. McKinney) – whom she's been carer for – leaves her alone in a big, empty abode straight out of Halloween. Then a trio of men break in and, trapped in the house with them, Anna has to fight to stay alive.

It sounds like horror does Home Alone, but Shut In is a whole other ball game (though a spot-on bit of casting has Rory Culkin, brother of Macaulay, playing a kindly food courier). Constantly wrong-footing expectations, the film boasts on a fantastic central performance by Riesgraf, who's anything but your average Final Girl – when Shut In's left-field central twist corkscrews the plot entirely, she's more than capable of stepping up to the mark.

“This is really sad,” mutters Martin Starr (bringing pitch-perfect gallows humour as one of the invaders) at one point, and that's part of what makes Shut In so effective. From its poignant opening moments through its unflinchingly violent outbursts, there's an undercurrent of tragedy to the whole affair, and Schindler regulates his tonal shifts skilfully. Impressive, given this is his first feature.

Though it's derivative of numerous other genre flicks (Copycat, The People Under The Stairs, Panic Room), Shut In is fearless enough to step out into bold new territory where it counts, not least in a ballsy final act that goes seriously dark, marking Schindler – and Riesgraf – as ones to watch.

Josh Winning

Josh Winning has worn a lot of hats over the years. Contributing Editor at Total Film, writer for SFX, and senior film writer at the Radio Times. Josh has also penned a novel about mysteries and monsters, is the co-host of a movie podcast, and has a library of pretty phenomenal stories from visiting some of the biggest TV and film sets in the world. He would also like you to know that he "lives for cat videos..." Don't we all, Josh. Don't we all.