28th Aug2015

Frightfest 2015: ‘The Shelter’ Review

by Phil Wheat

Stars: Michael Paré, Lauren Alexandra, Rachel G. Whittle, Amy Wickenheiser, Gayle James | Written and Directed by John Fallon

new-shelter-image

They often say those who can, do, and those who can’t, teach. In the blogosphere its often those who can make movies do, and those who can’t rip them to pieces online in reviews. So what happens when a blogger turns filmmaker and produces a movie? The Shelter. That’s what.

Written and directed by Arrow in the Head blogger John Fallon and starring Michael Paré (The Philadelphia Experiment, Streets of Fire), The Shelter tells the story of Thomas, a homeless man grieving his late wife. Ruined and desperate, he comes across a vast house with the lights on and an inviting open front door. But the next morning, the house will not let him leave. Destiny has brought Thomas to this place and now he must survive a very personal ordeal. For what appeared a safe haven turns out to be something far more malevolent.

The Shelter is apparently not the first movie John Fallon has been involved with that I’ve seen, and its certainly not the worst. Upon doing some research for this review I found out that Fallon was also the writer on American Muscle – released in the UK as Vengeance Road – a frankly godawful movie that is, and I’m ashemed  to say this, amongst the small list of movies I could not, no matter how hard I tried, watch all the way through. Thankfully Fallon the writer, and also in this case Fallon the director, have improved tenfold.

That still doesn’t stop The Shelter from making some mistakes. Fallon still has an obsession with tits and arse, throwing in flashbacks filled with naked women which, even if they are part of Thomas’ past indiscretions, didn’t need to be so gratuitous. Yes, I am calling for less nudity in a horror movie when the two have historically gone hand-in-hand. Then there’s the pacing… The story really lends itself to a short rather than a feature; and this overtly-religious tale could have been told just as well, if not better, and certainly more succinctly in 30 minutes, cutting back on a lot of Thomas meandering. Speaking of religion, I have no doubt The Shelter will play much better with those with strong fundamental beliefs in a higher power, but for me the religious aspects all seemed heavy-handed, often labouring the imagery when, I think, subtlely would have worked wonders.

However this films real strength lies in its casting. The Shelter is at its core a one-man production, with Michael Paré carrying the film entirely on his shoulders and often without saying so much as a word – often backed only by atmospheric visuals and a strong, sullen, score. And Paré revels in it, easily giving his best performance since the sctors early 80s heyday. Who would have thought that two 80s movie icons (Pare and Barbara Crampton) would be the highlights of 2015′s genre fare?

** 2/5

The Shelter has its European Premiere at Frightfest on Friday August 28th at 8.40pm in Discovery Screen 3.

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