It’s no secret that with a few exceptions, Hollywood isn’t doing so well right now. It’s kind of a mess, really. Sure, they’re still making movies and things are slowly returning to normal, but it’s not exactly rosy. The pandemic, of course, didn’t help; Bloomberg reported in March of 2021 that when adjusted for inflation, box office receipts were less than those of movies released forty years ago. Things are apparently bad enough that major companies are hiding their ratings and sales figures. Oh yeah, and moving some of their offices to more business-friendly states than California.
Plus, people are tired of the constant diet of superhero movies, remakes, prequels, and sequels. Spielberg’s West Side Story remake flopped. Dear Evan Hansen flopped. Plenty of movies that were predicted to be sure things flopped and there are assorted factors at play. Besides the trendy cud-chewing method of moviemaking, it doesn’t create a lot of good will when fans are constantly told that they’re misogynists, racists, incels, and so on if they don’t like the latest iteration of a beloved IP.
It’s obvious that entertainment fans are looking for something different. YouTube, of course, has exploded lately, and some news sites that normally stick to, well, news, have decided to diversify into film. The Daily Wire is one of those. Their latest offering is Shut In, which, although it’s only available on the Daily Wire site, premiered on YouTube yesterday. I’m kinda iffy about DW‘s founder, Ben Shapiro, just because I don’t agree with everything he says, but I watched Shut In because I was curious, and while the movie isn’t a light, easy ninety minutes, it is a satisfying film.
The story follows Jessica (Rainey Qualley), a young mother who’s busy packing to move she and her two small children to her sister’s house in Texas. Jessica tries, but she isn’t exactly a natural mother; she gets impatient when her daughter, Lainey (Luciana VanDette) brings her apples, some of which are rotten and others aren’t. She’s got so many apples that they’re piled up in a Radio Flyer in the hallway.
Jessica hasn’t had an easy time. She’s a former meth addict who’s living in the house her grandma left her, but since there’s no money and no jobs, not to mention Grandma’s house looks like it’s falling apart, she’s leaving. And she needs to get away from her creepy meth addict ex, Rob (Jake Horowitz) and his even more creepy pusher and sexual predator, Sammy (Vincent Gallo).
These two sponges come around just as Jessica is loading up her car and barricade her in the pantry. Rob drives some nails through the door and Jessica’s hand in the process, but he also slides a bag of meth under the door because he’s such a pal. “Pharmaceutical strength,” he tells Jessica.
He and Sammy lumber off looking like death warmed over, but they’ll be back. Meanwhile, Jessica has to figure out how to get herself out of the pantry and back with her two children, who are locked in her room upstairs.
Jessica has a lot working against her. Her car keys are in her purse, which Rob took on his way out. Her phone is out of minutes. She has to urinate in a jar. Her hand is all bloodied and infected. She feeds Lainey apple butter on a paper plate that she slides under the door. All she has is what’s in the pantry, which may not initially seem useful but might come in handy later.
OK. Except for the beginning and ending, this is not a pretty movie. It’s literally dark, as most of the story is contained inside the house, which is dirty and grody and run-down. The only light sources are whatever’s already in the room; there’s no attempt to impart an unnatural glow to the actors.
The performances are visceral, and in the case of Rob and Sammy, slimy as all get out, especially Sammy, who feels almost demonic in his pursuit of his next hit. Vincent Gallo apparently came out of retirement to act in Shut In; according to the Daily Wire he was blacklisted by Hollywood for being a conservative Trump voter. Whether or not that’s true, and it might not be, seeing as Gallo’s last acting credit was in 2013, the dude’s projects have very limited appeal for a reason. Put it this way: He’s not exactly a team player.
Rainey Qualley as Jessica is great; it’s easy to believe she’s a recovering drug addict who’s sincerely trying to clean up her life. I’ve seen people like this, although I’m no expert, and the movie gets the stages of recovery right. It also gets addiction right, as the late-stage addicts in the movie are extremely volatile and untrustworthy. As many know, addiction is an ugly thing and causes a lot of hurt before everyone involved can get on top of it, if they ever can.
What I didn’t care for in the movie was that the end got a little messy. Everyone’s trying to get something over on everyone else, at least the adults are, for various reasons, In one scene I wondered if Jessica was slipping Rob a Mickey in his apple butter, but no, she’s just making him a peanut butter and apple butter sandwich. In another scene it was unclear if Rob wanted Jessica to get high with him or go murder someone. I’m not going to say much in case anyone sees the film.
Naturally, entertainment sites don’t know what to make of Shut In, and the story of how the movie came about varies on who’s asked. In the intro to the movie, director D.J. Caruso stated that the film had been sidelined at New Line by COVID and that his team rescued it from a watered-down fate. According to him, in order to appeal to Asian audiences, New Line wanted Jessica to already be a good mother and her evil ex a rabid dog, with no religion in the film whatsoever. How the pantry bit would have worked into all of that is anyone’s guess.
Deadline, on the other hand, said that the film was supposed to be directed by Jason Bateman, but its option drifted and DW simply took it off of New Line’s hands. IndieWire was downright malicious; to them, Shut In and all Daily Wire films are full of Hollywood rejects that deserve only the usual insults and snark.
The audience seemed to like it, though; the chat section on YouTube was full of kudos, clapping hand emojis, and apples, and the reviews on IMDb are mostly glowing. It’s too bad that the film is now behind a paywall, because people are hungry for good stories, and Daily Wire has some intriguing stuff coming, such as The Hyperions, a superhero comedy starring Cary Elwes.
So yeah, Shut In is well-done, although it’s not the kind of movie I would usually seek out and may not want to watch again. Despite getting grossed out at some of it, I was riveted.
A new Shamedown is on the way tomorrow, and it’s also an indie film. Oh boy, this one is good. Thanks for reading, all, and hope to see you then…
Shut In is available to members on the Daily Wire site, starting at the Insider Level.
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