Shelter (2012 Review)

Author: Craig Matthews

Here we have SHELTER, released in 2012 this indie psychological thriller is the brainchild of Adam Caudill and Wrion Bowling. Made for less than $100,000 it has featured at the Eerie Horror Film Festival where it won Best Director and the 2012 Williamsburg Independent Film Festival where it won Best Narrative Feature Film. The idea behind this is 5 total strangers trapped in a nuclear fallout shelter for a long time, with no immediate hope of release.

Knowing all this, I had high hopes when I got this film started. Straight away we are met with our 5 characters… and our first little stumble. The actors seem just… awkward around each other and sadly a little unconvincing. I mean, the world is ending outside let’s put some effort into it shall we? But this is only an initial stumble, because as the film progresses they really get into the zone. By only using body language and long silent glares to each other, they show the tension in the shelter brilliantly.

They depict the story well. A nice touch is focusing on the repetitive and mundane tasks within the shelter; this alone sets me on edge! Combine this with the story being told through flashbacks to seemingly random events, it leaves the viewer tense and doubting just about everything and everyone. The directors seem to have decided not to use traditional eerie music; instead they have opted for emphasising repetitive sounds in some scenes to convey tension. A great example is during a standoff between characters the camera focuses on a leaking pipe with the drips getting louder and louder, you just want to scream. The use of sound and the work of the film crew in this way are brilliant and with some refinement could be a trendsetter in this genre.

Heading towards the end of the film, the actors are worth a mention again. They masterfully show the mental strain of being trapped for an extended period. Sadly all this good work is spoiled by a lazy plot twist. The aftermath from this for me ruins the built up tension for me, it’s a shame because this could have been so much more. Because of this the ending feels very indifferent and unsatisfying, you are left thinking of what could have been.

SHELTER started out well, despite a few shaky first moments with the characters. They quickly developed into complex parts of a gripping psychological thriller, with all 5 of them having stand out moments. The sound and camera work did need a little refinement but could have easily been mistaken for a much higher budget film. It was bloody good! Until that plot twist, it was a sad nose dive from there. For me the ending felt rushed and with all the tension gone, the film kind of falls away to a TV drama.

Rating: 3/5

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