TAD 2015: Shut In
With perhaps one of the most intriguing hooks for a film at this year’s Toronto After Dark festival, director Adam Schindler’s Shut In (potentially being renamed to Intruders) has found a new twist on the home invasion story. What if the victim of the invasion was agoraphobic and couldn’t leave the house? This clever premise sets the viewer up for a film that twists and heads in directions that are completely unexpected.
Anna, played by Beth Riesgraf suffers from severe agoraphobia. She has remained inside her house for the past 10 years since her father died. For the past year, she has taken care of her sick, dying brother. Every day she receives food delivery from a Meals on Wheels delivery boy (Rory Culkin) and has befriended him. The day following the death of her brother, Anna offers the boy money to start a new life and follow his dream but he refuses saying he can’t do that to her. Anna has gathered up the courage to finally leave the house and attend her brother’s funeral but when the time comes she just cannot bring herself to do it. Shortly after she was to have left, she hears a truck pull up to the house and three men get out (Jack Kesy, Martin Starr, and Joshua Mikel). They break in through the back door and suddenly she is trapped. She hides but eventually they find her and hold her hostage. They are after the money and search the house. At one point Anna manages to escape within the house and so begins a cat-and-mouse game that goes to places completely unexpected. Anna is able to turn the game around on the three men and soon she holds the power. She plays with them and when her true intentions come out when the third act reveal comes, the story turns once again and we see that perhaps Anna is not so innocent after all.
Riesgraf gave a strong performance as Anna. It was a layered character that had many complexities below the surface driving her actions and survival instincts. She had an intensity that the director picked up on immediately from her first audition. Martin Starr’s character was the comedic relief in the film yet was also a threatening presence. Delivered with his trademark deadpan voice and mannerisms, this was a great departure for him from the roles he’s typically known for.
Perhaps the strongest element to the film is the concept behind the story and the writing. It’s a great original take on this type of film and writers T.J. Cimfel and David White have blended together elements of several different genres. The film keeps the viewer surprised and guessing what direction it’s heading in and it transforms itself twice into unforeseen territory. The story does lag in a few parts and it also seems needlessly complicated at times. I did find myself wondering at times why she just didn’t tell them where the money was to get rid of them but overall it’s still a fresh imagining that can be deliciously psychological.