Take Shelter follows a husband and father, Curtis (Michael Shannon), who begins to suffer apocalyptic visions. While trying to cope with the affliction at the expense of his wife (Jessica Chastain) and child, he begins to unravel. Torn between prophet and psycho, Curtis must determine if his family's history of mental illness has finally come for him or if a supernatural force is trying to save him and his family.
Take Shelter Review
We seem to be doing all the Michael Shannon movies in reverse, but this film is too good to ignore, even though it is a far cry from a traditional horror film. More of a slow-churning dramatic thriller, Take Shelter is Shannon at his best, doing what he does; brooding, yet timidly loving. Complex behind a guise of simplicity is the name of the game for this actor, and this film is par for the course. If you've seen Bug, Nocturnal Animals or Midnight Special, you know exactly what you're getting from Shannon in Take Shelter.
Bug is by far the most horror-oriented material Shannon has done, but Take Shelter carries its moments as well. The visions Curtis experiences are minimalist horror at their best. The cinematography does a fantastic job of inserting you into his nightmares. The subtle and unnatural feel of the visions is disturbing and engaging, seemingly increasing in dread with every cold-sweat dream. The imagery doesn't seem particularly frightening, but it managed to shake my bones at times.
Shannon delivers his usual great performance and Chastain's emotional struggle to cope with her husband's issues is an underrated quality of the film. Their dynamic carries the drama of the film, while Shannon's interactions with others, his nightmares and himself escalate the fear. Is he insane or the next Noah? The film refuses to ease up on making you guess.
The film feels like it could snap at any time. The surrealism Curtis begins to experience starts to blur reality, and we are along for the ride. It feels like any scene could be the time we see Curtis turn into a monster or suddenly see society collapse and the apocalypse begin. I loved the constant shift from rooting for him and begging his wife to leave. The story took you along for the journey.
Take Shelter isn't a horror movie. It's barely a thriller to be honest. It falls more comfortably in the category of drama, but the thriller/horror elements, however mild and sparse, carry the story through to the end. If you haven't seen this one yet, you should check it out if you're willing to exercise some patience and take a break from regular conventions of relentless bloodshed.
Horror Qualifier: 3/10
Horror Quality: 3/10
Film Quality: 8/10