The Shelter (2016)
Written, Directed, and Produced by John Fallon
Thomas Jacobs is a widow and a homeless man, seeking shelter for a night when he encounters a sanctuary. An immense two-story house, lit invitingly with door ajar, beckons him. Wondering at his good fortune, he strolls in, but, the doors lock themselves and the windows are impenetrable–they cannot be opened or broken. Fate has led him here, but why? Will he escape, or fall victim to imprisonment in this mysterious place?
“Bartenders are like priests. You can unload your burdens on them.”
Thomas Jacobs is a burdened man with a haunted past. His sins are revealed in short bursts which underlay the main plot line. A crucifix sways as a headboard rocks against the wall in response to a taken woman and a widowed man having intercourse in bed displays the contrast between Jacobs’s religious obligations and sin. He puts his wedding band back on, lights a cigarette, and exits into the night, planning another night of drinking away the memories of his deceased bride. The Shelter contains numerous instances of contrasting religious and immoral images, which work to convey Jacobs’s conflicting emotions as he wrestles with his tragic past. Jacobs’s crucifix flies off his neck when he enters the ‘shelter,’ an ominous indication about the unholy nature of this supposed sanctuary.
I like how the context for the current story is revealed in flashbacks, which keeps the watcher entranced and questioning why the plot unfolds the way it does. Rather than laboring out Jacobs’s past in the beginning of the film and risking losing us to boredom before the plot begins to develop, it throws us into the current action immediately and forces us to find our own footing amidst the action. The repeated imagery leaves us questioning what its significance is, and we aren’t given a direct answer. A teddy bear in the bathtub paired with a flashback of an identical bear being lowered into a crib; a girl standing on an isolated glacier; a thorned crown lowered onto a head; the painting of an infinity symbol; a locked door with a painted 8 that appears to be the very same symbol tilted on its side. We are left to decide for ourselves how to connect these snapshots into a larger puzzle and what purpose they serve other than merely being connections to Jacobs’s discarded family and past.
The Shelter melds horror with a spiritual and psychological drama. It is provocative in the ideas it showcases and examines, but there is no shortage of additional gripping drama. This film is one sure to captivate and unsettle viewers, leaving them questioning its concealed symbolism.
8 out of 10 Splats of Blood