The Shelter review: John Fallon’s first venture as director highlights a lot of visual flair and a head full of ideas.

The Shelter review
The Shelter review

Director: John Fallon
Cast: Michael Pare
Certificate: 15
Running Time: 76 minutes

Synopsis: Homeless man Thomas (Pare) realises that the abandoned house in which he has sought shelter, might not be as safe, or empty, as he hoped.

If you’re looking for something dark and a little different, then The Shelter, co-financed by film website, may be the film for you. Our protagonist Thomas is currently homeless. The embodiment of the man who had and tragically lost it all, Thomas now roams the streets haunted by his past, trying his best to block out memories with bottles of whiskey. He seems to be functioning at a base level at least but all that changes when he stumbles across an abandoned, but fully stocked, building. Once inside Thomas is confronted with all his past transgressions, big and small.

The Shelter review
The Shelter review

Not particularly heavy on plot, The Shelter is instead a meditative study of one man’s battle to cope with his grief and guilt. Filled to the rafters with religious iconography; statues of Jesus Christ, copies of the Bible and crucifixes of ever schism, are littered everywhere you care to look. The talismans represent Thomas’ need forgiveness, but he’s a stubborn man.

The story might feel a trifle like an episode of The Outer Limits in places, but The Shelter is much more about the journey Thomas goes on than the light plot.

The idea won’t play right for everyone, especially those that prefer to disengage their brain before hitting play, but if you give the film the time and attention it deserves you’ll find there are various ways the text can be read. Has Thomas finally had a mental breakdown, is he dead and in a living Hell, or are the events just the result of too much booze and a guilty conscience? Whatever your reading, you’ll find some meaning to The Shelter.

Visually the film is stunning and has a pseudo-dreamlike aesthetic. The choice of what appears to be over-exposed background street lights etc. is beautiful; the resulting glowing orbs of every colour adding life and movement to the frame. They also aid some rather nifty transitions from present to flashbacks of Thomas’ life before.

A tale of one man’s existential plight, the horrors within The Shelter aren’t your usual jump scares or buckets of blood. Instead the ‘horror’ stems from the bad choices Thomas has made throughout his life. Imagine being trapped, watching a movie of all your greatest mistakes with no way to turn it off, that’s way more horrifying than anything Carpenter could dream up.

The Shelter is the directorial debut of John Fallon who, up until now, has had a steady career as an actor and writer. His first venture running things highlights a lot of visual flair and a head full of ideas.

The Shelter review, Kat Hughes, August 2015.

The Shelter screens as part of the Frightfest programme, screening on Friday 28th August at 8:40pm.