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Ya know what really grinds my gears? Bloggers, that’s what! Especially those so-called “horror movie reviewers”, always mooching freebies from respectable film makers and other such business types in the film industry. The worst part is when they zero in on the poor indie film makers who are just trying their best to get recognition among self important, half talented, opportunists. Their only goal is to see their dreams presented on a theater screen for all to see, but bloggers could care less. It’s just gimmie, gimmie, gimmie. . . Wait a minute, I’m one of those so called “horror movie reviewers”, and if memory serves me right, I’ve mooched off of an indie filmmaker. Oh god, what has become of me?!

Allow me to explain.
Nearly three years ago I saw this great, however unsettling, film at the Eerie Horror Film Festival called Shellter. I know, I know, I talk about the EHFF way too much, but if you had a horror film festival in your home town you’d talk about it a lot too. It’s the single film related event that I most look forward to every year, but anyway.

Shellter was so good in fact that it ruined my afternoon entirely, you‘ll understand why later. Months passed before I caught wind that Shellter was being released on DVD. I jumped with joy, I did. In an attempt to further the films recognition, I wrote Dan Donley [writer, director, and cinematographer] and explained that I had in fact seen his film and would love to review it. Because so much time had passed since I had seen it, I asked if there was a way I could acquire a copy so that it would be fresh in my mind as I reviewed it. With no questions asked, Mr. Donley was kind enough to mail me a copy with the understanding that I would do as I said and review Shellter. Well, it’s going on two years and that review still hasn’t been written [until now of course]. I can’t chalk it entirely up to laziness. In that time my PC shit the bed [I blame Korean cyber punks], I moved across town twice, AND Slaughter Film had gone on hiatus and I wasn’t sure what would even become of it, SO THERE!

I do owe Dan Donley and huge apology. I feel like a giant sack of crap for putting this off for as long as I have. So, without further ado, I present my review of the film Shellter.

Shellter begins with the awakening of an attractive 20-something female named Zoey [Cari Sanders]. She is in some sort of medical facility and doesn’t know how she got there. When Zoey comes to, she is greeted by a “Doctor” [William Tulin] who fills her in on current events.

Through her conversation with the Doctor, Zoey learns that there has been an infection and from the sound of it, everything beyond the airlock doors of their fallout shelter is 28 Days Later style madness. The infected are attacking everyone, the uninfected, each other, and even the dead.

Other than the Doctor, who is accompanied by his assisting nurse [also without a name] who looks like an ugly relation of Nurse Ratchet, there are just a handful of survivors. Each of the survivors are subjected to a series of tests, conducted by the Doctor, in order to determine whether or not they are infected. Food is rationed and water is “recycled” through a contained treatment “system”. If you’re wondering why I used quotations with the words recycled and system, well, you’ll just have to watch the movie.

As time goes on, Zoey begins to realize that her situation is more grave than she once thought. She becomes suspicious of the Doctor’s motives when she discovers that he has been feeding her the flesh of the recently dead infected. He tries to reassure her that extreme measures must be taken if they are to survive. Reluctantly, Zoey accepts this as fact and plays along.

In just one of the many, more disturbing scenes, Zoey is recruited to be the new Nurse. Nurse Ratchet’s cousin had to be subdued, as the Doctor explains, “she is infected, infected with lies”. With the help of Zoey, the Doctor conducts an experiment on one of the survivors. The survivor is strapped to a chair and wired with electrodes while the Doctor asks her a series of history based questions. With each question the voltage is increased and for those she answers incorrectly, Zoey administers the electrical dosage until the survivor has been electrocuted and is a survivor no more. It is what is known as the Milgram Experiment, which I will talk more about later.

At this point Zoey realizes that she is in as much danger inside the shelter as she would be on the outside with the infected. She knows that she is going to have to do whatever it takes, including playing the Doctors sick games if she is to survive.

I’m going to wrap things up here because I don’t want to give too much away or spoil the ending.

I like Shellter, a lot! Don’t get me wrong, it’s unsettling to watch but is so accurate in it’s portrayal of the human will to survive. There are a handful of scenes that depict “torture porn” style gross outs, but in Shellter they are with purpose. In scene after scene Dan Donley explores the darker side of survival in a very smart and cleverly written way.

Allow me to offer an example of both, the smart and the clever. Dan Donley puts his Masters degree in Psychology to good use with his take on the Milgram Experiment. This experiment was to determine just how obedient people would be to their authority figures. The whole idea came about during the 1961 trial of Nazi war criminal Adolf Eichmann, when the question was asked whether of not he and his accomplices shared a mutual intent during the Holocaust. To put it another way, did the Nazis that Eichmann commanded carry out their orders because they also wanted to exterminate Jews, or were they just following orders. Nazis aside, the findings of the Milgram Experiment show that nearly 100% of people will go against their better judgment and do terrible thing if there is an authority figure present to reassure and encourage them. For more on the Milgram Experiment visit wikipedia.com.

The clever part comes when the Doctor turns to asking about Nazis and the Third Reich during the more electrifying questions of the experiment. Subtle nods and psychological references like these are what makes Shellter standout against mediocre films.

Shellter is SO good but SO dark. After watching it, I felt defeated, abused and ill. Cannibal Corpse songs are more cheery than this film. I admit that Shellter is not for everyone but if you think you’re brave enough, GO SEE IT!


★ ★ ★ ½