Harrowing ‘Shut In’ Will Surprise Just About Everyone

The home invasion thriller remains a genre staple, even in the age of Ring doorbells and security systems.

Movies like “Hush” show the horror of having someone in your home who isn’t welcome. So when The Daily Wire announced “Shut In,” it seemed like a solid B-movie bet from the upstart platform.

Except the right-leaning streamer had something else in mind.

“Shut In” is a character study bedecked with slick thriller trappings. It also boasts the return of Vincent Gallo, adding an incendiary spark to a story that was sizzling already, thank you.

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Rainey Qualley stars as Jessica, a single mom preparing her children to move out of their temporary home. Jessica is clean after a stint in rehab, but it’s clear the parental odds are stacked against her. Cash is tight, for starters, and her ex (Jake Horowitz) hasn’t followed her on the path to sobriety.

So when he shows up, unannounced, with a shady chum (Gallo, welcome back!), she knows she’ll have to think fast to protect her children. Will her maternal instincts be enough against not one but two intruders?

“Shut In” isn’t a Pure Flix presentation, but an element of faith is both unmistakable and shrewdly deployed. Jessica lives under a mountain of guilt, scrambling to stay clean and worthy of her kids. Those old hungers aren’t gone, though, nor the memories of her scarred childhood.

Seeing a Holy Bible and a cross affixed to a wall conjure something profound within our heroine, a mix of strength and rage at her predicament.

Melanie Toast’s Blacklist script soars by giving Jessica a rich, and thorny, back story. The story only stumbles over the overt symbolism in play.

Wait … does this even sound like a home invasion thriller?

But it is, and “Shut In” offers chilling moments from the moment Jessica accidentally gets trapped in that cramped space in her home. Gallo’s presence – the star keeps the malevolence at a slow but steady boil – anchors the film’s mid-section. Even when he’s off screen you can feel him lurking at the story’s corner, ready to pounce.

It’s Qualley’s show, though, and director D.J. Caruso (“Redeeming Love,” “Disturbia”) ensures her arc is never out of focus.

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Caruso works from a small visual canvas, with much of the action taking place in one cramped vestibule. The film still looks marvelous, from the picturesque opening scenes to a rain-drenched sequence as the narrative screws tighten. Plus, the director makes every inch of that signature room matter.

The story still sags a bit through one particular stretch, where Jessica’s quest to free herself invites both ingenuity and unavoidable delays.

The best genre films spend time getting to know the protagonists, humanizing them before the inhumane events start to unroll. “Shut In” trumps that formula. It’s a genre film, all right, but it never stops building up its flawed heroine, right through the last, satisfying image.

HiT or Miss: “Shut In” lacks the visceral thrills of some invasion films, but it more than compensates with a heart-tugging redemption arc and the return of an electric star.

EDITOR’S NOTE: This critic is a contributor to The Daily Wire.

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