Shut In is a heart-pounding thriller starring Naomi Watts as a widowed child psychologist who lives an isolated existence in rural New England. When a young boy Mary (Watts) is treating goes missing, and is presumed dead, she becomes convinced that his ghost is haunting her and her bedridden son.
Writer Christina Hodson says the inspiration for Shut In came to her while she was living alone in a creaky New York City studio apartment. Imagining the possibilities behind the unexplained noises she heard late at night, the first-time screenwriter penned the script in just six weeks. The result was a tense psychological thriller with a simple premise, complex emotional undertones and a chilling twist ending.
“I wanted to turn the tropes of the genre on their heads,” says Hodson. “And I wanted to leave little clues along the way so that when you do realize what’s happening, you’ll be able to go back and it will be satisfying.”
Executive producer and Lava Bear president Tory Metzger was immediately impressed by the script, which she says was unlike anything she’d read before. “If you do what I do and read a lot of screenplays, you often think you know where they’re going — and very often you’re right. In this case, I had no idea what would happen. One of the things that struck me was that I was 60 pages into the screenplay before I actually understood that instead of a great dramatic movie, I was reading a genre script. That’s not an easy thing to do.”
Metzger says she and former Lava Bear CEO David Linde, who also serves as an executive producer on the film, were excited to find a script with such a strong female lead character. “It was a great part for a woman,” she says, “and that’s something that we’re always on the hunt for, because there are so few of those out there.”
Concerned that the screenplay’s subtle dramatic elements would be lost in the hands of a filmmaker who wanted to make it “just another shock-horror movie with a lot of jump scares and loud bangs in the night,” Hodson says she and the producers were keen to find the right director for the project.
Enter Farren Blackburn, an experienced British television director with a strong minimalist vision for Shut In. “He understood the film unlike any of the other directors we had spoken to,” says Metzger. “We had some very experienced and, in some cases, award-winning directors who were interested. But there was something about Blackburn’s connection to the material — and in particular, his understanding that less would be more — that drew us toward him.”
Blackburn says he was intrigued with what he saw as the cinematic potential afforded by the script’s economical storyline and confined setting. “When I first read Shut In, I was excited by the fact that it was a genre movie that could be very beautiful and shot with great artistry,” he says. “I’m a big fan of those pared-down ’70s American movies that had a European aesthetic. Plus, Shut In has a protagonist you really care about and who has an interesting journey, so for me it was a no-brainer.”