The Shuttered Room is a British horror film based on a story written by August Derleth.
Although all the action in the movie supposedly happens on a small American island, the scenes were actually filmed in the UK. So, if some of the American accents sound a little dodgy, you now know the reason why.
The main stars of the film are Carol Lynley, Oliver Reed, and Gig Young. Lynley plays the central character, Susannah Felton, who was born on the island.
Susannah’s parents sent her away when she was still a young girl and she remembers little of her former home. The film is about what happens when she returns to the island many years later to claim her inheritance.
Gig Young plays Susannah’s husband, Mike, and Oliver Reed puts in an impressive performance as the island’s bad-boy, Ethan Whately.
Much of the story revolves around a creature that is kept chained up in the attic of the watermill where Susannah’s parents used to live.
The creature is not shown until the last few minutes of the film but, when you watch The Shuttered Room, you are regularly reminded of its presence because many of the scenes are shown from the creature’s perspective as it spies on the other characters in the film.
Close-ups of the creature’s chain dragging across the floor make it obvious it is no ordinary voyeur.
The Shuttered Room begins with a short pre-credit sequence that shows the young Susannah being tucked into bed by her mother. Unfortunately, her mother has forgotten to lock the attic door.
After Susannah’s parents have gone to sleep the thing from the attic creeps down the stairs (one can only presume that someone forgot to chain it up too). It wakes up Susannah and scares the living daylights out of her.
After the attic monster is safely locked away again, the opening credits roll against a backdrop of a young woman travelling in a car. This is Susannah, of course, and she is on her way back to the island with her husband. She has no memory of her childhood but has a bad feeling about returning to the island. So bad in fact, that Mike has to stop the car at one point and let her out.
Mike manages to calm Susannah down and persuades her to face her fears and return to the mill she inherited on her 21st birthday. Being blissfully unaware there is something sinister chained up on the upper floor, Mike thinks the mill could make a good holiday home.
Many of the islanders are related to Susannah but nobody appears to be glad to see her except perhaps her Aunt Agatha (Flora Robson). However, she’s keen to see the back of her niece as well and tries to frighten her away with stories of a family curse.
The witch-like Agatha seems to have a lot of respect on the island, but Mike is not a superstitious man and he is determined that he and Susannah will remain.
It has to be said that Agatha only appears to want to protect the Feltons. The other islanders appear pretty hostile and Ethan is the worst of a bad bunch.
Ethans has mixed feelings about his cousin. On the one hand, he is unhappy she’s back because he always expected to inherit the mill when Agatha dies. On the other hand, like most of the local rabble he hangs around with, Ethan spends much of his time lusting after Susannah. It’s a bad group and, for much of the film, it’s hard not to fear for Mike and Susannah’s safety.
There are a few scenes where it looks as if Susannah may be raped or even gang-raped. Fortunately, Mike is never far away and the first time Ethan tries to force his attentions on Susannah Mike demonstrates some pretty snazzy martial arts moves and kicks the bad boy’s ass.
There is no doubt who the better man is, but it is a temporary victory. Guys like Ethan never learn and he has plenty of friends who are willing to help him out.
The threat from the local community, and especially from Ethan, remains pretty constant throughout the film and there are some very tense moments, but the viewer is never allowed to forget that there is something nasty up in the attic and the monster is all the more disturbing because it is unseen.
All in all The Shuttered Room is a pretty good film. The story is a little basic I suppose. With different actors, I doubt that it would have worked as well as it does.
Oliver Reed had such a natural talent for playing the bad guy that he dominates nearly every scene he appears in and Young and Lynley make the Feltons appear to be such a nice couple it’s easy to want everything to turn out okay for them.
The Shuttered Room has a runtime of about an hour and forty minutes and it is a must-see if you are a fan of Oliver Reed. Ditto to that for Carol Lynley fans. It’s is not a particularly fast-paced film though. If you are looking for high action and/or plenty of special effects, you may be looking in the wrong place. If you prefer creepy to flashy and are looking for something to send a few shivers down your spine, give it a try. It might be an oldie, but it is still a goodie and will make an excellent addition to your collection of horror DVDs.