Directed by David Greene [Other horror films: What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? (1991)]
This was a pretty solid watch for the most part, with good atmosphere and suspense, though a bit lighter on horror than I’d have preferred, especially for a movie over an hour and a half long.
The plot is fun, made additionally enjoyable by the setting. Not only are the two main characters on an island off the coast of an undisclosed state (though this is a British film, it takes place in the USA), the focus of the horrors take place in an abandoned mill, which was suitably creepy and run-down.
Unfortunately, there weren’t as many kills as I was hoping. The opening scene was rather engrossing, and so indeed was the rest of the film, but none of the death scenes really grabbed me all that much. The small amount of blood seen was a welcome sight, and occasionally there was a sense of brutality that was never really touched on, as necessary as I thought it was (more on this shortly). It’s really the atmosphere, the moody and ominous feeling throughout, that allows this movie a higher rating than the kill scenes themselves.
Now, this next part was something I wasn’t initially going to speak about, but it was a prevalent theme throughout the film, so if this seems out of place, I apologize.
Taking place on a moderately small and out-of-touch island, some of the male locals have rather backwards views on appropriate behavior and actions toward women they’re unfamiliar with. Multiple times throughout the movie, these men chase and sexually harass, with the intent to rape, Carol Lynley’s character. Of course, being the inbred pieces of trash they are, as soon as she rejects their affection or tries to defend herself against the unwelcomed touches, they get angry at her, only making them want to mess with her more. It’s sexist male entitlement at it’s finest, and I’ve rarely seen locals as undeserving as life as these assholes, especially with their actions toward the end of the film.
The point that’s more important to the movie is that only one of the five of the characters displaying these sickening and backwards actions (which far too many of my male peers would see little problem with) ends up dying. The movie had a solid opportunity to dispatch, with as much brutality as legal in the UK at the time, these utterly unlikable characters. But only one of them dies, and it was too quick to bring much pleasure. Talk about a wasted potential.
Gig Young and Carol Lynley’s characters both were done well. I loved Young’s brawling sequences, defending his young wife against the rapists that populate the island, and they struck me as more authentic than I’d have expected. Lynley, while her character was certainly afraid, never really fell into the whole ‘hysterical woman’ trope, which I appreciated.
Oliver Reed’s character was detestable, and he did quite well in that roll. It may be worth mentioning, too, that Reed has probably done the most for the genre, starring in such horror films as The Curse of the Werewolf (1961), Captain Clegg (1962), Paranoiac (1963), Blue Blood (1974), Burnt Offerings (1976), The Brood (1979), Venom (1981), Spasms (1983), Alan Birkinshaw’s The House of Usher (1989), and Severed Ties (1992), along with having smaller roles in a handful of other flicks. It’s an impressive horror resume, and if his acting in this film is any indication, it’s clear to see how he attained these many roles.
My biggest gripe with The Shuttered Room, despite all that is does right, is the lack of kills, instead focusing on the rapey locals. Certainly, that’s a horror in itself, but I’d have preferred more about the mysterious figure killing people at the mill as opposed to seeing Lynley’s character being continually assaulted. Still, the movie has a great moody feel, and the color is pretty crisp, which is a plus for a film from a decade that hadn’t fully embraced color yet. A solid 60’s flick, this is one that I would tepidly recommend.