SHELTER IN PLACE movie poster | ©2021 1091 Pictures

SHELTER IN PLACE movie poster | ©2021 1091 Pictures

Rating: Not Rated
Stars: Brendan Hines, Tatjana Marjanovic, Ola Kaminska, Kevin Daniels, Jey Reynolds
Writers: Christopher Beyrooty & Connor Martin
Directors: Christopher Beyrooty & Connor Martin
Distributor: 1091 Pictures
Release Date: September 14, 2021

SHELTER IN PLACE is set at the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel (for Los Angeles non-locals, this is a real-life historic high-end establishment on Hollywood Boulevard). Fair warning: it takes place during a pandemic, when everything is on lockdown. If you feel that you’ve had enough of feeling isolated and trapped in your own recent experience and don’t want any more in your entertainment, this may not be the movie for you.

We start with a great overhead shot of Hollywood, before settling into the Hollywood Roosevelt, playing itself. We’re told it’s the first weekend of everything being closed in California. We encounter hotel guest Robert Caustin (Jey Reynolds), who immediately establishes himself as a jerk, lying to his wife over the phone and ogling a hotel maid. It’s hard to feel bad when something unpleasant befalls him.

Then we meet two more hotel guests, honeymooning couple John (Brendan Hines) and Sara Burke (Tatjana Marjanovic). Sara is an online social influencer, not famous, but doing well enough that she’s making a living. John is between jobs.

We soon see that the Burkes are the only vacationers who haven’t checked out during the pandemic. Likewise, the only remaining hotel staff are general manager Ty (Kevin Daniels) and maid Adela (Ola Kaminska).

Everybody tries to keep up the social niceties at first. However, this would be difficult with the social/labor divisions within such a small group, stretched out over a period of time, even under better circumstances. Given the Burkes’ already fraying marriage, and something very weird going on within the hotel, things spiral out of control.

One has to hand it to SHELTER IN PLACE writers/directors Christopher Beyrooty and Connor Martin for making the absolute most of the Hollywood Roosevelt, which appears to have been extraordinarily cooperative. While we’re not in Stephen King territory, the filmmakers find ways to shoot rooms and corridors and doorways that have them all looking suggestively creepy.

We don’t spend much time outside the hotel, but when we do, Beyrooty & Martin manage to create angles that make Hollywood look deserted. The shots will have particular impact for locals, and they’re pretty effective altogether.

Other aspects of SHELTER IN PLACE are more of a mixed bag. Daniels, as the hotel staffer who takes real pride in his position, has the most intriguing conflicts, but he’s not the main character. Marjanovic, Hines, and Kaminska all give strong performances.

However, SHELTER IN PLACE doesn’t want to be a straight-ahead drama (or dark comedy, for that matter). We’re curious as to what’s going on here, but the payoff isn’t all that it might be. It’s not clear if this was what the filmmakers wanted to build to all along, or whether their ambitions were curtailed by budget.

Either way, SHELTER IN PLACE is fitfully engaging, but it leaves us wanting more than it provides.

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