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‘Shelter in Place’ review: Quarantine horror movie filled with paranoia and tension

Anger and frustration with few scares.

Shelter in Place is a pandemic horror movie with a lot of promise. A couple is stranded at the Roosevelt Hotel during the quarantine. As more time passes, tensions escalate between the pair and the remaining staff. It is soon revealed cabin fever is not the biggest concern. In any movie dealing with COVID, there are going to be certain emotions that have to be touched on. Paranoia, tension, and frustration have to be high. Plus, since Shelter in Place is a horror movie, there has to be an element of fear. While the former is there, the film is unable to deliver the scares, ironically.

Sara Burke (Tatjana Marjanovic) and her husband John (Brendan Hines) have been trapped in the infamous Roosevelt for an undisclosed amount of time. Johns seems content not to work while Sara has been making money as an influencer. As Shelter in Place progresses, it becomes clear the two are not quite happy with the arrangement. It starts with little comments but becomes more obvious.

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Things become more strained over the course of the film. What starts off looking like a happy if strange honeymoon, becomes more tense due to being stuck in the hotel. This all culminates in a terse exchange between the two. Unfortunately, Shelter in Place decides to leave it at just that. Following the big blow up, the two just get back together as if nothing happened.

While it is clear the couple are angry over their situation, this is displayed by making them unlikable and inconsistent. John is a jerk from the very beginning. He insults the hotel staff, downplays his wife’s work, and constantly blames people for things that are not their faults. If this gradually happened or if someone in Shelter in Place even mentioned how John had changed, it would make more sense. However, the way things play out, it just seems like he has always been an asshole.

Sara is less pushy, but is much more inconsistent. She goes from happy to angry – sometimes in the same scene. She also alternates between being upset with John and taking the blame. It is hard to get behind a character who changes every time they appear. Her actions make a little more sense; she has an undisclosed mental health issue that requires her to take pills she has run out of. Still, it comes off as more bad writing.

The shame of it all is Shelter in Place is a perfectly acceptable horror movie. Things are more bloody than scary, but it keeps audiences engaged. Its use of reds and blues stand out and the shots of long halls are well done. There is some good gore and things never get over the top. Things get a little sketchy when the film tries to explain what is happening (it never quite gets it), but aside from its main characters, it is fine.

Shelter in Place comes to VOD and digital September 14

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