Take Shelter (Blu-ray / DVD)

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The Woman in BlackStarring Michael Shannon, Jessica Chastain, Shea Whigham, Tova Stewart

Directed by Jeff Nichols

Distributed by Sony Pictures Home Entertainment

It is said there is a thin line between sanity and madness, and few recent cinematic characters have walked that tightrope as precariously as Curtis LaForche, the protagonist in writer/director Jeff Nichols’ wonderful new film Take Shelter. Curtis, perfectly portrayed by the always fantastic Michael Shannon, is a normal enough, blue-collar guy doing his best to support his wife, Samantha (the equally fantastic Jessica Chastain), and their hearing-impaired daughter, Hannah (Tova Stewart, a child actress with a bright future). Curtis’ existence is fairly simple: he goes to work, hangs out with his coworker/drinking buddy Dewart (Shea Whigham, great here), comes home to be a loving father and husband, goes to bed, and then the cycle repeats. A nice life, if unremarkable. That is, until Curtis begins having dreams and hallucinations which portend an oncoming, apocalyptic storm that will turn mankind into crazed, violent creatures hellbent on attacking those not already afflicted with their madness.

The visions Curtis is subjected to detail all manner of frightening events, from oily rain coating the world to beloved pets turning rabid to normal people becoming outrageously violent, and all of it due to the massive, looming storm that always hangs in the distance. Curtis, whose family has a history of mental illness, takes great care initially to keep his dreams and waking hallucinations a secret from his friends and family. However, he doesn’t dismiss these omens and begins to build a massive storm shelter in his backyard. Eventually, Curtis’ odd behavior, strange side project and crumbling sanity take their toll, alienating the very friends and family he hopes to protect. The man’s life spirals out of control until…well, that’s all I’m saying about the plot. Whether Curtis simply has serious mental issues or is indeed foreseeing an apocalypse, I’ll leave for you to discover. I will say that this film is a must-see, full of terrific performances, fine drama, and some of the most bone-chilling sequences I’ll see in any film this year.

Now, on to the Blu-ray. Sony Pictures has given us a nice package here, with a fantastic transfer and a nice set of bonus features. The image is flawless, with a razor-sharp picture that perfectly preserves the gorgeous cinematography. The sound, too, does a wonderful job at balancing the softest of noises during the quiet scenes with the louder, more bombastic audio in the film’s more chaotic moments. Overall, just a great, great presentation.

The bonus features are nice, if not overwhelming. The audio commentary features director Nichols with Michael Shannon, and it is nice and informative, if occasionally a bit dry. Unfortunately, those looking for an explanation from the two concerning the film’s ambiguous ending will sadly find nothing of note here.

There is also a brief selection of behind-the-scenes moments, along with a handful of deleted scenes which, while nice, weren’t necessary to the film. Finishing up the set is a theatrical trailer and a fun Q&A with stars Shannon and Whigham that runs about fifteen minutes.
While the film may not qualify as “horror” to some Dread readers, I assure you that this is one of the best, and most gripping, tales I’ve had the good fortune to view this year, full of top-notch acting and stunning images. Do yourself a favor – see this ASAP.

Special Features:

  • Deleted Scenes
  • Commentary with Jeff Nichols & Michael Shannon
  • Behind the Scenes of Take Shelter
  • Q&A with Michael Shannon & Shea Whigham
  • Theatrical Trailer


    4 1/2 out of 5

    Special Features:

    3 out of 5

    Discuss Take Shelter in the comments section below.

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  • Jinx

    Get Your Box of Dread Now
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    • kate smith

      The movie is nice. It depicts the dilemma of a father who is having some horror dreams and hallucinations.It has been nominated for Saturn awards. Also Shannon got the best actor award for this movie. Great work by Jeff Nichols.

    • Jinx

      Woman in Black – thanks very much! Hope you get around to checking it out. If so, let me know what you think.

      Masked Slasher – great job on the Mother’s Day review. I wound up pretty much loving that film. Sorry you didn’t care for this one. I can certainly understand if it’s not everyone’s cup of tea. But yikes, even so, you didn’t care for Shannon’s performance? I adored the sort of subtlety on his part, playing a man doing his best to appear outwardly normal while demons rage within. And the fish fry/freakout sequence was just incredible to me.

      • Masked Slasher

        Ya know, I usually love Shannon. To this day BUG still freaks me out so I was really looking forward to this. For me, though, the movie kind of stays in one mode the whole time: Everyone thinks Shannon’s crazy. But it doesn’t really have anywhere else to go.

        I really liked a few moments in the beginning built around Shannon’s visions, but in my eyes it never really got off the ground or went far enough.

        By the time we actually get to the film’s very ending, it felt like a bit of a cop out to me.

        Not for me, I guess.

        • Jinx

          Totally with you on Bug. That movie scared the hell out of me, in a way that only “realistic” horror films can. Both Shannon and Ashley Judd were superb in that, and it’s a pity that the film is so unjustly overlooked.

          Can’t wait to see what Shannon does next, and I’m especially curious to see what he does with General Zod in Zack Snyder’s upcoming Superman flick.

    • The Woman In Black

      I’ve been wanting to check this film out – I’m a huge fan of Shannon, and the subject matter sounded fascinating the first time I heard about it. Thanks for taking the time to review it for us!

      • Masked Slasher

        It’s a crushing bore at an interminable length.

        Even Shannon seems a little less interested than usual.