As a lifelong film buff, you can imagine my shock when my mother, who showed me the entire “Star Wars” saga when I was five years old, proclaimed over dinner that she is “anti-movie.”
“Hollywood is too left-wing for me these days,” she said.
In spite of my shock, I understood what she meant. In today’s day and age, there is something deeply uncomfortable to her about walking into a movie theater looking for a fun escape from reality — only to have liberal ideology preached to her by a wealthy actor. It’s not exactly an enjoyable experience.
That’s why I was excited to tell my mother about The Daily Wire’s latest thriller.
Yes, you read that correctly. Founded by Ben Shapiro and Jeremy Boreing, the conservative media company, renowned by the Right for its articles and podcasts, is venturing into feature films.
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“If we were going to jump into entertainment … we wanted to make stuff that people actually wanted to see, not people felt like they had to see. We were going to provide people a safe space where they felt like they weren’t going to be attacked for their values,” Shapiro said on a recent episode of his podcast, which, in terms of listenership, regularly ranks in the top five nationally.
In 2020, The Daily Wire launched said film strategy with the distribution of “Run, Hide, Fight,” an action flick that follows a school shooting. But Shapiro and Boreing didn’t intend to merely distribute long-form content. They wanted to be responsible for a film’s production from beginning to end.
So when director D.J. Caruso found a promising screenplay by writer Melanie Toast on The Black List (a website used by screenwriters to shop unproduced work to industry professionals), The Daily Wire knew what to do.
Released on Feb. 11, “Shut In” follows Jessica (Rainey Qualley), a recovered addict and single mother. Having recently regained custody of her two small children, Jessica is packing up to move the family to a more affordable state (sound familiar, conservative viewers?). But when the father of her kids (Jake Horowitz) shows up with his violent, predatory friend in tow (Vincent Gallo), Jessica’s worst nightmare comes true. The two men barricade her inside of her pantry and take off with her cell phone. Trapped with no hope of rescue, Jessica must overcome her own self-doubt to protect her children and fight off her attackers — all from behind a door.
“Shut In” doesn’t reinvent the thriller genre — it isn’t the next “Psycho” by any means. But it stands apart from the crowd in its execution. The audience is by Jessica’s side every moment of the film. When she is locked in the pantry, so are we, left to rely on our ears to figure out what is happening in the rest of the home. Thanks to Qualley’s stunning performance, Jessica’s emotions are palpable without feeling cheesy or overdone. When she smiled, I smiled; when she cried, I cried.
In fact, not a single performer phones it in throughout the entire 88-minute runtime. Actor and director (and outspoken conservative) Vincent Gallo has returned from a nine-year hiatus to terrify audiences as Sammy, the predatory, manipulative friend. Gallo embodies the role with all the cunning of a comic book villain, marrying Hannibal Lecter and the creepy man next door.
Jake Horowitz, too, is both pathetic and bone-chilling as Jessica’s ex. He makes a slippery antagonist — one moment, he’s sobbing in Jessica’s arms, begging her to take him back; the next, he’s holding a gun to her temple.
At the core of the story is a moving redemption arc. While trapped, Jessica reflects on her battle with drug addiction and questions whether she is capable of being a mother. “You’re nothing,” her abusers tell her, and, for a while, she believes it — that is, until a heartwarming discovery empowers her to fight for the life she deserves.
‘You’re nothing,’ her abusers tell her, and, for a while, she believes it.
Ultimately, “Shut In” is about the power of hope over fear, and the power of love over addiction. The Daily Wire knocks it out of the park.
That’s not to say “Shut In” can only be enjoyed by Daily Wire fans. I watched “Shut In” with two of my closest friends, one of whom identifies as moderate, the other as liberal. We all enjoyed it equally — and judging by its stellar rating on Rotten Tomatoes, critics did, as well.
“We’re making entertainment-first content, challenging content, adult content,” said Jeremy Boreing. “The two things that will distinguish [a Daily Wire film] is the fact that it broadly speaks to values that conservatives are aligned on — not strictly conservative values.”
Thankfully, The Daily Wire isn’t stopping here. The next film on its docket is a western titled “Terror on the Prairie.” The film will star actress Gina Carano, who was recently fired by Disney for criticizing the current U.S. political climate on social media.
“The purpose of Daily Wire entertainment is not to create a home for those who have been canceled,” said Boreing. “That said … I think it’s a very worthy thing for us to do. Gina Carano did absolutely nothing to deserve her cancellation from Disney. She deserves to have work.”
If “Terror on the Prairie” is anything like “Shut In,” I’ll be happy to recommend it to my mother. After all, The Daily Wire has already proven that the silver screen doesn’t belong to only one side of the political spectrum.
“Shut In” is available to stream exclusively on Dailywire.com with an Insider subscription.
Leslie Sattler is Broad + Liberty’s editorial intern. Previously, she proofread for October Hill Magazine and worked as the Managing Editor of Our National Conversation, a startup specializing in nonpartisan news. She is a senior at New York University planning to pursue a career in publishing.