Directed by Dan Donley
#20 on my top 20 horror movies of 2010 list is a movie called Kill Theory. Basically its about what you do in order to survive. Psychological survival movies have been done before and they are always interesting to watch. The reason is because you start to ask the same question the characters are asking.
Would you kill or maim people or even people you love to survive?
I've always liked these movies and in Dan Donley's Shellter you get posed the same question, but it pushes the envelope a little more to the extreme. Our main hottie Zoey finds herself in a post apocalyptic world where an infection has spread and she and a Doctor and Nurse are holding up in a fallout bunker.
Not knowing what lays beyond this shelter, she must decide if the doctor is her only hope for salvation.
Shellter is an indie horror flick that instead of regurgitating tired old zombie flicks gives us the wiggins through psychological torture. Zoey is our mouse and we get to see her go through the maze. It's clearly mesmerizing to see the film unfold and start questioning her actions and reactions and the film does this effectively well. Where it goes a little awry is in the fact I knew the twisty twizzler ending 5 minutes into the movie and knew I was going to hate it.
We've all seen mice experiments before and you know eventually it'll get to the cheesy middle. It's how the maze is conceived is what makes it exciting. And Shellter has an interesting way to get there but your going to go on a lot of dead ends before you get there.
Zoey, (Cari Sanders,) awakens in the medical facility of an underground fallout shelter. The Doctor, (Will Tulin,) explains that an infection has killed most of the population. The only people left are either a few lone survivors like her and the infected: The living dead.
The Doctor is assisted by a Nurse, (Maria Olsen,) who it seems has gone completely insane. They “treat” a steady stream of survivors/patients.
The only way of “curing” the infection is by surgically removing the affected area, which leads to gruesome results. The Doctor wants Zoey to replace the unstable Nurse and become his new assistant. Zoey is very hesitant to join the Doctor who is willing to do whatever it takes to survive, no matter how questionable or terrible the acts. But after a patient offers to trade places with Zoey and do “anything” the Doctor wants, Zoey realizes that if she doesn’t do it, someone else will do these terrible things to her.
Zoey has to decide what she is willing to do to survive, and the viewer has to make that same decision: How far would you go to survive?
Zoey's journey starts off as she finds herself drugged out and hearing video of a infection that's spread. All food is tainted but a Doctor (Will Tullin) has informed her they are safe. Later Zoey starts to see other people be rescued and the good doctor begins performing medical experiments. To us the viewer, these all seem to be questionable but to horrified Zoey, she deems the doctor's actions as a means to help herself.
Other survivors are given a choice to stay and leave though when they leave they are shown as being killed by infected savages. This stimuli clearly strangles Zoey to stay and she is slowly given more drugs and given a yummy food supply of urine and fried human flesh to survive.
In the most pure and blatant experiment scene that emulates those Milgram experiments to a tee, Zoey and another survivor are forced by our good Doctor to pass a test where Zoey is told to high voltage another woman as she is forced to answer meaningless questions. The experiments are clearly interesting to read and watch (remember that Stanford prison guard/prisoner one?) but here in Shellter it's comes off as a little absurd. My damn pesky logic comes in. Why didn't Zoey just question why the doctor would want to perform such a mindless experiment?
This experiment seems just out of place in Shellter. Like the movie was written around this one scene. It's effective but almost ridiculous within the context of the film. The doctor is clearly insane and I have to say no matter the reinforced stimuli of psycho babble within Zoey's new shelter, you would have to conclude that an experiment like this makes no sense.
However, of course you wouldn't have a film. The evolution of Zoey from sane Human X to insane foot soldier progresses fast. Soon Zoey is helping the good doctor in every experiment and torture which encludes head bashing, ocular trauma, 2nd hand rape and your everyday slice and dice.
As we get to the ending which I Nostradamused 5 minutes in, the movie rushes through the reveal and gives the viewer the happy ending. You know me, I hate happy endings.
Solid performances mixed in with really dumb performances are scattered throughout Shellter. Sanders as Zoey gives a good performance as she turns from normal to abnormal than to normal again. Kudos to Tulin as the Doctor who has a look that makes you cry out for Dateline's Chris Hansen. He sells his mad doctor well and I would get the creepy critters if I was in an elevator with him. The other survivors who interact with our big two give lazy, over the top acting that made everything seem more SyFy mixed in with a Troma film. C'mon now, we don't need that much exaggeration.
Donley's film looks good for an low budget indie horror film. The sets are fantastic and the shots are done really well. However, there seems to be lots of filler muddled throughout. I'm not sure but I think Zoey was drugged like 10 times in that movie. The movie never gets frenetic, where we see a sort of cat and mouse play out. Instead we get a slow, monotonous approach with Zoey slowly seeing the bigger picture. The makeup effects and non CGI gore and splatter seem to be top notch. You really appreciate a film that is willing to do it the old fashioned way.
So what's the deal with Shellter?
Sure it succumbs to Saw like qualities and the old torture porn cliches but that psychological approach keeps it entertaining. I of course take that old liberal, leftist approach that goes with the idea that I would never torture or kill somebody to save myself. And you want to yell at our mouse Zoey to stop her stupidity. You of course would never eat horrific foods, assist in torture or kill somebody to save yourself right?
Shellter asks that question and shows it via extreme horror. The maze is a little disorganized in Shellter but you can't help but keep watching because you want to know if our little mouse will get the cheese.
Cheddar is our bitch.
Unnecessary surgery trauma
Non consensual rape
Decapitated hands, legs
Slice and Dice
I think there was some....I forget.
The doctor gives some food to Zoey telling her it taste like shit and she eats it. Guess what you think she ate.
The Jaded Viewer's Final Prognosis
Shellter actually does an OK job of giving us the best of both worlds. Torture porn and psychological horror. It does both decently, but nothing I'm writing Bloody Disgusting about. You can get your psycho horror fix without the gore by watching The Killing Room or Kill Theory. But where's the fun in that?
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- Available for 30 day stream ($4.95) or DVD purchase ($9.95) via IndieFlix
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