Make sure to read, comment as well as vote using the star rating at the end of this post! This is simple courtesy if you expect your own pitch to be read! Here is Nick Jobe’s “Shelter”.
Based on the novel by Nicholas Jobe (Side-Note: Me!), a blood-soaked girl shows up at a police station requesting to speak with a specific detective—who doesn’t even know who she is—and he must figure out what happened to her and her family. They were supposedly trapped in an old bomb shelter by a demon, but was it really supernatural forces, or was it something more logical hiding behind the curtain? From the director of Cube, Cypher, and Splice comes a claustrophobic, paranoid horror film that will leave you guessing until the very end.
Director Vincenzo Natali is no stranger to claustrophobia or paranoia, and he’s certainly no stranger to mind-bending and/or controversial moments. With the majority of the film taking place either in cramped rooms in a police station; in a dark, underground shelter; or in the seemingly inescapable woods that house the shelter, the film would not call for a high budget, and Natali also knows how to make the very best of the money he’s got. Major themes include trust and sanity, as our characters must constantly check both to make sure they can keep it together and not do the worst: turn on each other.
Saoirse Ronan will play AIDYN CASSIDY, a 16-year-old girl with a bit of an attitude problem. She is apparently the only survivor of the massacre, showing up at the police station covered in blood requesting to see Detective Paul Wilson. As shown in darker roles like those in Atonement and the upcoming Hanna, Saoirse Ronan would only have to push herself a little further to embody this character, even going so far as to dye her hair black for the majority of the film.
Heath Ledger will play PAUL WILSON, the detective specifically requested by Aidyn. He has no idea who she or her family are and will stop at nothing—even at the cost of losing his job and his sanity—to figure out what happened. Paul is a slight workaholic, mostly due to having no real personal life to speak of… at least outside of an illicit affair with his boss. Heath Ledger showed us both light and dark sides of his personality through his career, both of which are necessary for this role.
Chloe Moretz will play SCOUT CASSIDY, Aidyn’s 12-year-old sister. Scout starts out sweet and innocent. But after some truly awful events happen to her within the shelter, Scout must grow up fast and become a strong yet broken young woman bent on fighting for the survival of both her body and her mind. Within the last year alone, Chloe Moretz has shown us both a depth to her emotional acting as well as the more physically demanding aspects of the job in two of the most controversially received films of 2010.
Ben Foster will play HACKETT CASSIDY, Aidyn and Scout’s 20-year-old half-brother. While not related fully to his sisters, he becomes their best hope for survival during the events within the shelter. The product of rape, Hackett has had to overcome much emotional adversity within his family. But can his sisters completely trust him, or is it possible that he could be involved in what’s going on? Ben Foster has played characters all over the map, from the completely psychotic to the more family-friendly brother character. But those who have followed his career know he can show us that he would do whatever it takes to protect those close to him.
Kevin Bacon will play HOWARD CASSIDY, the father of the family. A pushover in regards to the mother, Howard isn’t the strongest male role model. And this really begins to show as the stress of the events start getting to him. Kevin Bacon will give the character a likable edge at first, despite being a pushover, but then turn him into a person so crazed and despicable and twisted in only the way Kevin Bacon can do.
Marcia Gay Harden will play MARY CASSIDY, the mother of the family (including Hackett). Mary was raised a stringent Christian, enforcing all beliefs on her children. This, unfortunately, eventually brings a falling out between her and Aidyn after a major secret is discovered, and the rift caused between her and Aidyn nearly destroys the family. So it’s no surprise that this easily carries over into the dark world of the shelter. Marcia Gay Harden is amazing at playing these types of characters, most brilliantly showed in another controversial paranoid horror film, The Mist.
Thandie Newton will play NORA HARMON, Paul’s lieutenant who he is having the affair with. Nora is a married woman, though she still carries out this relationship with her subordinate. She will do anything to help Paul, even if it makes her seem fickle and as if her emotions are controlling her decisions. Thandie Newton is a sexy woman who I have no doubt could play this part well.
Elpidia Carrillo will play MS. HENRIETTA SILVA, a social worker called in to oversee Aidyn’s case until the next of kin can arrive. Despite wanting Aidyn to rest for the night, Ms. Silva is forced by law and circumstance to wait and listen as Aidyn tells her story. However, she might also be seeing things herself that may or may not be real, and her accusations could cost Paul not only the case, but his job. Elpidia is a strong, older Hispanic actress, which is what is needed for this role.
David Hewlett will play DR. THOMAS STERLING, a child psychiatrist brought in by Ms. Silva to help back up her case. He needed to be a bit of a dork and pushover, yet still be able to have an air of authority in his profession, and David Hewlett is perfect for that (even disregarding the fact he’s in every Vincenzo Natali film).
Elias Koteas will play DEREK MILLER, the prime suspect in the shelter massacre, who also happens to be the man who raped Mary Cassidy and fathered Hackett. Elias Koteas easily has the chops to play this role.
Aidyn Cassidy is stumbling down the road around dusk, eventually wandering into a police station. We see her completely covered in blood as she pauses and looks around. When she finally receives an audience, she immediately requests to speak to “Wilson.”
Detective Paul Wilson is speaking with Aidyn in a hospital room, though she doesn’t say much. This is also where he meets Ms. Silva, the social worker called in on the case. Knowing the law, Paul is easily able to keep Aidyn from being taken away so that he may continue to question her about what happened. We also discover that, besides exhaustion and mild dehydration, nothing seems to be wrong with Aidyn. Eventually, she begins her story. (For the rest of the film, interspersed with Aidyn’s story is Paul’s. For this act, they eventually make it back to the station, and we see various scenes between him and Nora, his Lieutenant. They get information on the family, including some about Derek Miller, a man with a dangerous connection to the family. We also start to see a little bit of affection between Paul and Nora.)
For Aidyn’s story, we’re first introduced to the Cassidy family as they’re on their journey to a campsite in the middle of the woods, having decided to go camping for the weekend. The surface reason is that Hackett is going off to college soon, but the real, underlying reason is they want—once and for all—to solve the rift in the family caused by the animosity between Aidyn and her mother. Once at the camp, Aidyn and Scout wander off to find firewood and discover the ruins of an old cabin, apparently having been burned down years ago. Here, Aidyn discovers an old picture of a man and toddler, but nothing else, and takes it with her.
At the campsite, Scout lets slip what they found to their parents, leading everyone but Mary to go check it out. While there, however, they discover an old bomb shelter nearby. After opening it, Aidyn feels a warm wind, and then notices rustling trees, despite no further wind. Upon further exploration of the shelter, they see strange symbols on the wall, apparently drawn in blood. Later, the family is sitting around, actually enjoying some company, when strange things begin to happen—collapsing tents, missing tools, etc. They blame it on Aidyn, not helping matters. Later that night, Aidyn wakes up soon before the camp is attacked. Mary ends up on fire and dragged through the woods toward the cabin ruins. She’s tossed down into the shelter, and the family goes after her as they hear their assailant coming after them, too. They get in safely, but Aidyn hears a low growl right outside the hatch.
Paul’s story shows his emotions and mentality beginning to waver. He constantly questions the validity of Aidyn’s story. He also begins hallucinating and having haunting visions. His visions involve him being in another person’s body and experiencing something that is not his own experience. Paul’s visions have him traveling through the past—in the body of a sick boy who might be possessed and cured by a witch; in a woman during the Crusades who lives in the wild; among others. Paul starts to question his sanity, even going so far to call in a priest—he’s not much help, but he gives Paul the name of an old friend, Lana Perkins, but says only to use her as a last resort.
Aidyn, meanwhile, doesn’t seem too tired or drained, despite Ms. Silva’s suggestions that she needs to be resting. Paul’s relationship with Nora is also constantly tested as Nora worries over his obsession. It doesn’t help when Ms. Silva brings in a psychiatrist, Dr. Thomas Sterling, to observe both Aidyn and Paul, or when Ms. Silva secretly makes accusations that Paul might be attempting to have sexual relations with Aidyn. Still, through this, they continue listening to Aidyn while attempting to find the elusive Derek Miller.
At the shelter, Mary Cassidy is dying, and the rest of the family isn’t sure what to do. They decide they need to either try and get to the car or get supplies. Aidyn is volunteered (as the fastest) and makes a run for it. But while she reaches the car, it’s completely destroyed all around her, attacked by some unseen force. She makes it back to the shelter with no supplies. Mary suggests that it isn’t people attacking them, but a demon sent to test them. The family questions this, and curiously, Aidyn—having firsthand experience—goes along with the idea. But this sends the family into an argument, leading them to discover what caused the rift between Aidyn and her mother: A couple years prior, Mary had walked in on her daughter making out with a female friend. Mary, being a stringent Christian, considers homosexuality a terrible sin and nearly denounces her daughter, thus sending Aidyn into her rebellious nature… starting off by dying her hair black. Aidyn refuses to apologize to her mother for her actions, refusing to see what she is as wrong… just in time for Mary to die.
From here on, Aidyn, Scout, and Hackett are plagued with visions—some true and some lies—that attempt to turn them against each other. Howard slowly goes insane, believing his wife is not really dead and that all he needs to do is find the “key” to escape and bring it to her on the outside and she will help them leave. In the process, he attempts to rape Scout in the middle of the night and finds himself knocked out and strapped to the entrance/exit ladder. The kids attempt to escape a couple more times and get supplies, including Hackett leaving on his own. Unfortunately, this results in not only his own death, but the death of their father, as Hackett’s body is thrown back into the shelter to land on their father, snapping his neck.
Meanwhile, Paul eventually finds the location of the campsite and the old shelter, sending a unit to the site. Aidyn’s uncle—her next of kin—also shows up finally, allowing the questioning to finish as he leaves to set up a hotel room nearby. Paul finishes the story with Aidyn, discovering that once she and her sister were the only ones left, they attempt to make a run for it by covering their bodies with the bloody symbols on the walls and ceiling, taking blood from their dead father to do so, thinking the symbols must have been keeping the demon trapped in the shelter all these years. But before they can leave, Derek Miller shows up and attacks them, attempting to rape Aidyn. Scout, however, takes a nearby hammer from a tool set they had salvaged and beats him to death. They re-attempt their escape, but they get attacked yet again. Scout is pulled into the shelter and smashed against the walls by an invisible force, and Aidyn drops all her belongings that she had with her before finally making a run for it.
Paul continues to question the legitimacy of Aidyn’s story, noting that even the doctor declared Aidyn had no wounds, which conflicts with what she had told him. Regardless, Paul drives Aidyn to the hotel to be with her uncle. He then decides, however, to make a quick visit to Lana Perkins, the friend of the priest from earlier. He wants to get some advice on getting rid of this demon, finally seeming to side with Aidyn that it is, in fact, a demon and not a group of men or even Derek Miller. She turns out to be a psychic of sorts and tells him about the visions he’s been having and how they are memories of past lives. She gives him some tools to fight the demon, and he goes to the shelter.
Paul reaches the parking area for the campsite and finds other squad cars. Before he can get out of the car, Nora calls and tells him that a young girl proclaiming to be Scout Cassidy has shown up looking for help, also covered in blood. Curious, Paul gets out of the car and goes to check out the shelter. Along the way, he notices all the police that were sent to investigate are missing. He gets to the shelter and climbs down. When he gets down there, he finds multiple dead bodies, including that of Aidyn Cassidy. When he touches her, he gets a vision of what happened at the end of Aidyn’s story. But instead of Scout dying and Aidyn making it out, just the opposite happens. He turns and rushes back to the ladder and begins climbing up. As he reaches the top, he can see all the missing police officers and crew, hanging by their neck in the surrounding trees. A figure appears and shoves him back down. Paul falls, landing on his back, leaving him paralyzed.
The figure drops something down and it lands near Paul’s face after a slow fall. He looks across and sees the picture of him as a toddler standing next to his father, the picture Aidyn had taken at the beginning. He gets quick visions of his past lives again and discovers—with the help of some information Lana had given him—that the witch from his first vision had linked the souls of him and the demon so that they must battle for eternity in every new life he has. The visions all lead up to his most recent as a toddler, where his father traps the demon in the shelter and burns the cabin down to rid itself of all their belongings, as Lana—who had helped his father trap the demon the first time—had performed a spell herself that would force the demon to need an object belonging to them in order to find Paul’s soul. As the picture was the only surviving artifact from the cabin burning, the demon needed that and tormented the Cassidy family until he was able to get it. Paul’s visions end, and he looks up to who pushed him down the hatch. He sees Aidyn, who he realizes had really been the demon in disguise all night, close the hatch, leaving him in darkness.