“Nobody’s who they say they are…”
…I don’t get why so many people talk about marriage like it’s some sort of death sentence. I love my wife. Not just because she’s multiple levels above my bum ass and I’m incredibly lucky to have her, but also because of the above quote. Now more than ever, with social media and dating apps, it’s hard to truly know who you’re allowing into your life. Unfortunately for Chris (Cameron Monaghan) in Pusher director Luis Prieto’s Shattered, dating is bloody murder.
Written by David Loughery (The Intruder), Shattered introduces us to Chris, rich and retired thanks to his home security app, Watchdog. Caught in the middle of a divorce with his wife Jamie (Sasha Luss), all alone in his isolated mansion in the mountains and missing his daughter, Willow (Ridley Asha Bateman), Chris is lonely. He’s so desperate for companionship, he puts caution to the wind and ignores all of the warning signs when he brings home too good to be true Sky (Lilly Krug), who he invites to be his nurse with benefits after an accident leaves his leg broken. Before long, their blooming romance opens up and reveals that Sky is a Venus flytrap, Chris the helplessly buzzing fly trapped in her drooling jaws.
God, men are weak.
To Chris’ credit, Monaghan does an exceptional job in bringing an empathetic understanding to the character, so we get why he’s such a fool. We first meet him, riding an exercise bike on the porch, surrounded by a jaw-dropping view of mountains (A+ work by the location scouts) and the town housing all of the less fortunate below. Any sense of joy is clearly long gone as he half-heartedly speaks with Jamie about divorce papers. He’s such a recluse, that he routinely does his grocery shopping after midnight. Prieto and cinematographer Juan Miguel Azpiroz frame Chris with wide shots in even wider spaces with no one around to give the sense that he has everything and nothing. He’s a man who is already broken long before the opening credits roll. Money is worthless if you have no one to share it with.
She’s the complete embodiment of a sexual fantasy when Chris meets her. A model. Hair wet from the rain. All smiles and flirtations. Sky is so “perfect” you can practically hear the gargled voice of Admiral Ackbar screaming “it’s a trap!” Krug casts a spell over Chris and the audience with a hypnotic performance that draws us into this kind yet troubled woman who seems to feel just as alone as Chris. There’s a sadness to the two of them, emphasized by the greyish hue of the film, adding a layer of sweetness to their relationship that feels natural and intimate despite the “this only happens in a dream” circumstances.
Set to composer Tom Howe’s moody, vaguely nourish score (at least for the first half), Prieto imbues the film with a steamy atmosphere that is so rare these days it almost feels fresh. Soft lighting. Fiery dialogue. The hardcore yet classy eroticism of Chris and Sky’s silhouettes screwing each other’s brains out. Shattered has all of the vibes of a sexy 90s thriller. Think Fatal Attraction or one of my personal favorites, Wolf. The timing couldn’t be better with the resurrection of extreme censorship and the “no more sex in movies” crowd screaming their way into the collective discussion. It’s more terrifying than any horror film to think that the voices behind this movement are so loud, especially when they’re other horror fans calling from inside the house. Go back and watch films from the Hayes code era, you weirdos. That kind of censorship has no place in art, and Shattered, with a sly look in its eyes, smashes this apparent new taboo with a gleeful laugh.
Like any sensual thriller, Shattered isn’t all intimacy and innuendos for long. Loughery’s script jumps into bed a bit too quick, but manages to build the tension of the inevitable like a ticking sex bob omb that explodes into pure terror once secrets are revealed. Krug is utterly chilling in a performance that you can’t take your eyes off of. You do not mess with this woman. Frank Grillo and John Malkovich as the entertaining (and sleazy) comic relief both make memorable appearances, but Krug is by far the standout. Shattered is an erotic fantasy turned nightmarish, with Krug as the murderous succubus at the center of it all.
Those worried that Shattered is some form of torture porn, don’t be: Annie Wilkes hammering Paul Sheldon’s ankles is a more grueling experience than anything you’ll find in Prieto’s film. Shattered is intense at times and plenty bloody, but the real horror comes in the film’s attempt to strip Chris from more than just his tighty whities. The terror which he faces goes beyond the physical, with Shattered exploring the overwhelming dread of losing the people we care about and being left alone.
Where Shattered threatens to fall through the glass is in its inability to fully utilize its potential. While Chris’ security app does come into play during a couple clever sequences, it falls too much into the background to allow Shattered to set itself apart from similar stories and smash through expectations. If you didn’t know Chris had created the app, you’d hardly notice the security mechanisms at all. More importantly and in spite of Krug and Monaghan’s sizzling performances, neither are developed well enough on their own, leading to character choices that don’t feel earned and lessening the impact of the film’s more emotional moments. Too often, Shattered is just as cold as Sky when it wants to be a warm, seductive touch.
Shattered isn’t anything you haven’t seen before, but if you too are craving a ménage a trois of sex, thrills and violence, a one night stand with Shattered will leave you satisfied.
Shattered is available in Select Theaters and On Demand January 14th, with a Blu-ray/DVD release on February 22nd from Lionsgate.
By Matt Konopka