Plot Synopsis: A homeless man named Thomas finds shelter for the night winthin a lavish abandoned two-story house. He eventually discovers that he is not alone. Someone, or some thing, has drawn him here and has no intention of letting him leave.
Ever since it’s announcement, I’ve been eagerly anticipating seeing The Shelter. Director John Fallon is well known for his love for all sorts of horror, so seeing what he could do with his own film in the genre really appealed to me. I happy to say that not only is The Shelter a fantastic, creepy addition to the horror genre, it’s on my shortlist of favorite films of the year.
The film is largely a one man show, so it needs an actor that can carry the heavy emotions at hand. Fortunately this film stars Michael Pare. As Thomas, Pare truly gets the chance to show why he’s one of the most under-appreciated actors working today. He portrays Thomas as a man that has been beaten down by life and is full of self-loathing. Watching him go through the ringer really pulls you into the happenings.
All of the other actors and actresses do quite well. In particular, I really liked Gayle James as Maryam. I don’t want to give too much away, but whenever she pops up, you know the film is setting you up for some truly dark scenes. Let me tell you, with as oppressive as the atmosphere gets in The Shelter, this is saying a LOT.
This film has one of the darkest and most morose tones I’ve seen all year. Most of the film takes place during a foggy night, which really helps set it in. From the opening scene of the film, you realize things are not good with Thomas. His aforementioned self-loathing is on display from the beginning and it only gets worse once he finds the titular shelter in the abandoned house.
From here, the movie takes quite the turn and this is where the film is at it’s strongest. Adding a supernatural element opens the film up to viewer interpretation. Is he being haunted? Is the devil after Thomas’ soul? Is he suffering a psychotic break? Perhaps he’s just on the worst bender of his life. Any and all of these are possible. The Shelter never holds your hand and spells it out for you. It’s all left to the interpretation of the viewer.
John Fallon certainly has an interesting style of direction. He gets the most out of his actors certainly, which is an amazing skill for any director to have. But on top of that, you can clearly see how much he loves the genre as his influences show up on screen. There were times the film reminded me of the works of David Lynch, Dario Argento, and even the legendary Alfred Hitchcock. This is perhaps the highest compliment I can pay to Mr. Fallon. His work is evocative of such luminous names in the industry yet this is undoubtedly his own film. It’s quite frankly a horrifically beautiful sight to behold.
Any problems I had with this film? Honestly, the only issue I can think of is it’s pacing. While I adore a slow burn approach, for some viewers it may not be kinetic enough. There is a scene later in the movie that essentially puts what it had been building up to on pause for a few minutes. The flip side to that, however, is that the scene is absolutely necessary for character development and added intrigue on the proceedings. It’s a careful balance to pull off and while it may be placed in an odd spot in the film, it worked beautifully for me though.
The Shelter is a beautifully crafted movie that every horror fan should see. It’s clearly a love letter to the genre. If you love movies that don’t spell everything out for you and leaves it up for debate and discussion, then this is the movie for you. I personally can’t give it high enough praise for accomplishing what it did. You owe it to yourself to check it out!