“For those who are prepared to engage with it The Shelter will run deep and resonate within for a long time after the credits have rolled.”
If you’re looking for an easily digestible, exposition heavy, run of the mill horror flick, then move along because John Fallon’s feature length directorial debut The Shelter is not the film that you’re looking for. If, however, you like your cinema served up dripping in atmosphere, metaphor and suspense, then this slow burning psychological chiller is going to be right up your street.
The Shelter is the tale of widower Thomas (Michael Pare), a homeless man who finds the titular shelter for the night when he comes across a vast empty house with the lights on and an inviting open front door. Finding all the home comforts that he used to have, Thomas takes a bath, eats a hearty meal and turns in for the night. All is well until he wakes up suddenly to find a loaded revolver in his lap, the doors locked and the windows unbreakable. Something is very wrong and Thomas has to figure out how to survive.
As Thomas struggles to understand what is going on, the audience is right there with him as Fallon drip feeds just enough information, and at exactly the right pace, to unravel the mystery. That said, the beauty of Fallon’s cinematic Lament Configuration is that through extensive use of religious iconography and flashbacks that offer suggestions as to how Thomas found himself in this predicament, there are multiple conclusions that the viewer may come to, and with Fallon wisely refusing to offer his own explanation of the film’s meaning it enables the viewer to take their own unique experience with them when they leave the theatre.
Though there are several minor supporting characters, including Lauren Thomas and Rachel G Whittle, The Shelter is pretty much a one man vehicle for Michael Pare who is never anything but captivating as he owns the screen. It’s not easy to hold an audience’s attention for an entire movie, but the combinations of Pare’s experience as an actor and Fallon’s energy, vision and storytelling style (there are parallels in terms of structure to his earlier screenplay Deaden (2006) in which Fallon himself starred and similarly carried the movie almost single-handedly) is both entrancing and intoxicating. There isn’t an ounce of fat on the film’s seventy-six minute running time.
Ultimately, while potentially billed as a horror film, The Shelter has more in common with Lynch than Carpenter, but combines the symbolism of the former with the atmosphere of the latter to tremendous effect. The Shelter is not a film to be watched passively, and there are no definite conclusions to be found here, but for those who are prepared to engage with it The Shelter will run deep and resonate within for a long time after the credits have rolled.
Director: John Fallon.
Starring: Michael Pare
Certificate: not certified at time of review
Release date: 2015