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Take Shelter(2011) may be one of the most terrifying films since John Carpenter’s The Thing was released in 1982. Although when categorizing this film, one would actually fit it in as the crowning jewel of the psychological thriller genre, this film is still so effective in making the audience feel the same fear and anxiety that the character experiences which I believe makes this film rank alongside The Exorcist or Rosemary’s Baby in its stature to disturb.
The story is like an episode of the Twilight Zone spliced with Komodo Dragon DNA to give it fangs that sink into you and never let go. It’s about a man, who feels a threatening atmosphere in the world around him, whose sense of helplessness and inadequacy lead him to not know what’s real anymore. Curtis (Michael Shannon in a performance that hits you like a sledgehammer) is your typical American workingman with a home, wife, child and all the bills and anxiety that come with modern living. He begins experiencing terrifying dreamscapes every night, nightmares of destruction from a massive storm building in the distance. The vividness of his continued dreams are so strong it makes him question whether they are in fact just dreams or dark prophecies of a terrifying future. He begins to build a storm shelter in preparation that there might be a real danger behind his sleeping horrors and wants to be ready for when they surface to the real world. The building sequence of events truly shows the erratic fear, panic and alienation that comes from an emotional breakdown, all of which is wrapped up with a mind-shattering ending.
The film has an unsettling and threatening music composition that makes your skin shiver as it patters down high pitched tones like the beginning of rain fall. The cinematography is clear, stunning and brilliant with colors that pop and ingenious lighting schemes. The acting is incredible and compliments the visuals well, one never over-shadowing the other. Jessica Chastain plays Curtis’ wife, giving a performance in a few scenes that should have won her an Oscar. If you enjoy this film, check out The Machinist or Shutter Island.