THE SHELTER (2015)
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The Shelter is the feature directorial debut from John Fallon who is also known to horror fans as Arrow In The Head.com’s “The Arrow”. Fallon tells the story of Thomas (Michael Paré), who was a man that once had everything and is now a homeless drunk. As the film opens, we start learn in flashbacks of him loosing his wife and unborn child which has left him the wreck he is. One night he happens upon an empty house and decides to spend the night in warmth and comfort. There is food and booze to sustain him. But the house may not be as empty as it seems and worse still…it may also have an agenda awaiting Thomas.
Fallon directs from his own script and there are many things he does well and gets right in his first feature. It is obviously a low budget effort, but Fallon has a nice visual eye and the film really looks good, especially in some of the more surreal dream sequences where we start to learn the details on what befell our subject. He peppers the film with religious symbolism and the first act is not only intriguing, but has some very spooky atmosphere and tension. Where Fallon stumbles somewhat is that as the film progresses and we learn more and more about what took the things that matter away from Thomas, the more it becomes predictable and we realize we’ve seen this kind of Twilight Zone-ish tale before…and therefor know what to expect. We know going in that Thomas is most likely his own worst enemy and right up to an ending we can see coming well before it does, we find out that we are exactly right. The film was far more interesting when we didn’t really know what was going on, as it goes somewhere not unexpected. It loses it’s grip the more it tells us and the more routine it becomes. The surreal narrative also starts to wear out it’s welcome and sadly we lose that nice tension that had us interested in the first act. Fallon definitely has some potential here and maybe with a bit more streamlined narrative…and we don’t fault him for trying something a bit different…he can tell a tale where he can keep that atmosphere he initially conjured so well and build on the nice visual style he displayed.
As for his star, Paré performs a little unevenly. There are some scenes where he brings some nice emotional depth to Thomas, such as a mournful graveyard sequence early on, then other scenes where he isn’t quite on target. He is a veteran actor and it’s hard to tell whether it was working with a new director or maybe not quite grasping the material, but his acting fluctuates. He isn’t as convincing in the sequences within the house as he was in the scenes leading up to that. Maybe he wasn’t quite as comfortable with the film’s surreal style.
So, maybe not a complete success for Fallon in his feature debut, but far from a failure. Fallon seems to have learned well from his influences in terms of his camera shots and using that camera to build some atmosphere and tension, but it’s keeping it that he needs to explore further. As a writer he is not afraid to do something a bit different, but in this particular tale, it is when his story became familiar is where it most stumbled. His lead actor was a bit uneven in his performance and unfortunately, the more we learned about his character, the more predictable the flick became. Whether you like The Shelter or not, it at least shows that John Fallon has his heart and passion in the right place and we could be seeing interesting things from Arrow In The Head’s namesake in the future.
2 and 1/2 arrows.