Being Locked in is a scary situation for anyone. Being an ex-con I understand this more then anyone. Perhaps more then any other species we value our freedom of mobility, our ability to relocate on a whim and even more so, our ability to choose with whom we associate with. What happens when you take 5 strangers who would otherwise never choose one another as permanent companions and trap them in a room with limited supplies? That is the premise of SHELTER.
SHELTER begins when a group of 5 people all from different walks of life (with the exception of one couple) respond to an emergency alarm by heading into the basement of an office building that they’re all visiting for different reasons. They soon realize they are in a bomb shelter and once they go inside one of them panics after seeing a flash on the television and an end of transmission and locks them all inside when th indicator reads toxic levels of radiation on the surface. They think they’ll only be there for a few hours but find out they’re now stuck for several months! Irritation turns to psychosis and what started off as a nuisance becomes a waiting game to see who will snap next!
The trapped in a room scenario is nothing new. Most films that try it fail miserably due to the constraints that such a limited setting puts on the story. I do believe this is the first one that I’ve seen that takes place in a bomb shelter though and I have to say this actually works quite nicely. The added tension of not knowing who survived and who didn’t, not knowing if escape will bring salvation or certain death, all o these factors added depth to what easily could have been a forgettable film if it had merely focused on claustrophobia like so many films like it have.
The acting here was superbly done with a very well rounded group. We have Jef the daunting husband, desperate to save his marriage, a man who has spent his life compartmentalizing things only to be driven mad when it is him who is stuck into a box, and his wife Marisa, too dense and self absorbed to realize she has completely lost her humanity. We also have Chelsea the cold calculating thinker, completely obsessed with her own survival she is willing to do anything to ensure she lives no matter the cost, Tyler (my personal favorite of the group) A hard working family man who’s only desire is to be reunited with his daughter be it in life or death, and Hudson, the charismatic wild card, calm and collected he is the mediator between the rest but also the cause of many of the conflicts as his demeanor is a ruse to fulfill his own hidden agenda. Every good group has a Judas and Hudson is it here. Considering how much this film relies on conflict, this group o mixed nuts (pun highly intended) brings it in tens!
The cinematography here, while pretty basic is effective. We get a low res look that works well considering a large part of the film takes place on what are supposed to be security camera. We do get some pretty interesting off kilter overhead shots that add a surreal quality to the whole affair.
I only have two complaints here. The first is that the non-linear story telling isn’t exactly clear at first which kind of threw me for a loop for a bit. This one is a very small complaint because it’s rectified pretty quickly. My other complaint us a larger one: We don’t get nearly enough Tyler!!! He is the most endearing and identifiable character.He’s the guy we should all be rooting for and for the majority of the film he’s all but forgotten! This is especially sad when you consider that he is likely the best actor in the film! If Hudson is our Judas then Tyler is our christ!
Even with those complaints out of the way this is still a pretty solid piece of cinema and I highly recommend giving it a shot. Overall I give it one middle finger a quarter of the way extended.