Shellter Movie Review by Mike Pickle for More Horror
by Mike Pickle for

There are some films that showcase triumph of the human spirit. Shellter is not one of them. On the contrary; this film showcases the depravity of the human spirit. It boldly suggests that victims of sadistic torture and humiliation (particularly women) would perform the same atrocities on others in order to save themselves. Writer / Director / Cinematographer Dan Donley attempts and achieves a nightmarish world of torture and madness, but for what? As I attempt to understand the purpose of this film I'll tell you a little of what it's about.

Shellter opens with the young, attractive Zoey (Cari Sanders) waking up in a hospital bed in a dingy fallout shelter. The television above her shows a man in military garb standing in front of a sheet reporting that the country has been overtaken by a dangerous virus. Enter the treating physician known only as "the doctor" played quite creepily by William David Tulin. He proceeds to explain to her that they are among only a few survivors of a major outbreak of a virus that drives people mad. He warns her that she cannot leave or she will be killed by the infected or become infected herself.

The viewer very quickly realizes that something is not quite right about the doctor or this situation. An obvious realization that never seems to occur to the gullible victim, Zoey. Without much prompting; she assists the doctor in fiendish experiments and torturous acts on a seemingly endless parade of victims that arrive at the hospital. What follows is an obvious and predictable twist that the viewer sees coming early in the film, but is still treated as a major reveal. One of the many problems with Shellter.

Before attempting to find purpose in this film; I should say that not all of the film is an exercise in tedium. Only most of it. There are a handful of scenes that are effectively wince-inducing and are made more disturbing by the frenzied, psychopathic performance of Tulin as the doctor. Especially the lobotomy scene which would have lifted the film from its convoluted nature had our only protagonist, Zoey, been half as disturbed holding the victim down as we were watching it.

Other positive attributes worth mentioning are the performances of the actors who, for the most part, were pretty good considering what they had to work with. The ghoulish and insane nurse that assists the doctor at first is portrayed quite well by Maria Olsen. Even Cari Sanders does a pretty good job in the lead despite working from a weak script that paints her character as a spineless and self-serving person who obliviously falls asleep no matter how awful the things are that she or the other victims are forced to endure.

I could go on, but I promised to try to find a purpose for all this and I have. Apparently, after seeing the many references to Nazis and concentration camps in the film, I came to the conclusion that this is supposed to be a character study of the dark side of human nature. A character study with no character development? Afraid so. If the intelligence of the main character is insulted and she gives in to it then the viewer's intelligence is insulted as well. Mine was anyway. Hell, we're even insulted in the trailer for the film that states "Don't kid yourself. You'd do anything." Really? I felt more like this film was trying to say that only women are this weak willed after seeing the many female victims that were each as dumb as the last. A man being the only one that questions the logic of the situation. As a matter of fact; in the behind the scenes featurette, actress Cari Sanders questions the logic of a scene and says that if they are going to ignore logic they should be consistent. To which the director replies, "So we should be consistently unlogical" (No, that is not a type-o).

Perhaps even more distracting than the lack of logic is the lack of sound design or a dynamic musical score. Poorly choreographed fighting sequences have virtually no sound design and what little there is, is bad and accompanied by a score that is equally as monotonous and void of depth as the film.

Despite its many problems; I didn't utterly despise this film. The few well done, gory and disturbing scenes and special features including a behind the scenes featurette and outtakes make it a more pleasurable experience, but for a film that won Best Feature at the Phoenix Fear, Dark Carnival, Eerie Horror and Oklahoma Horror Film Festivals; I expected more. Much more.

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