Plot: Susannah (Carol Lynley) hasn’t been to her family’s island mill since she was a child, as her parents were killed and her aunt sent her to New York, so she could grow up away from those painful memories. In truth however, her aunt was motivated by more supernatural elements, as she believed the family was cursed and if Susannah remained at the mill, she’d be cursed as well. But now she is grown and a married woman, so she wants to return to her childhood home and her husband Mike (Gig Young) will be by her side. The two plan a brief vacation to the island, so that she can revisit her memories and introduce her husband to where she grew up. If all goes well, the mill could make a nice summer retreat for the couple or at least that is the plan. But as soon as the two arrive, a band of local thugs harass them, with the brutal and aggressive Ethan (Oliver Reed) as the ringleader. As if dealing with the lecherous locals isn’t enough, the mill itself seems to be home to some kind of strange presence, leaving Susannah and Mike wishing they’d never visited the island.
Entertainment Value: This is an odd one, a kind of toned down Straw Dogs mixed with an eerie horror vibe, topped off with some outlandish moments. The narrative isn’t focused and runs between threads often, with two main lines, the house mystery and the local thugs. The goon driven aspect plays out like Straw Dogs in some ways, as a woman tries to fend off aggressive locals, but the movie defuses a lot of the tension, as it makes Gig Young a martial arts master. So while Oliver Reed and his cronies do pose a threat, Young is no pushover and dishes out awkward judo chops like it’s Christmas, which adds some unintentional humor to the dark mood. The creepy house thread is just strange and inconsistent, but the atmosphere is unsettling and bleak, which makes the entire movie a little eerier and more effective. I especially love how it all wraps up, as it is a odd and suitable conclusion to this offbeat cinematic ride. Oliver Reed’s creepiness and hilarious dubbed voice are a highlight as well, though an inconsistent pace and some drawn out scenes throw off The Shuttered Room’s flow. I can see how some might not like this one, as it does misfire often, but I think there’s enough weirdness to recommend this one, if for no other reason than to see Gig Young treated like Bruce Lee, while Oliver Reed talks like a redneck.
This kind of movie needs a competent villain, as the leader of the thugs is one of the film’s most prominent threats, so Oliver Reed was a wise choice and he brings his tough guy persona to the table. Reed’s wild eyes ensure there is a vibe of anything can happen when he is on screen and he drips with creepiness, so he is a real threat to do whatever he might feel like at the moment. He is believable as a man who will use force to get what he wants as well, which adds a lot of tension to his scenes with Carol Lynley, for better or worse. While Reed is a capable bad guy, some of his character’s threat is defused by an odd decision to make Gig Young a martial arts kingpin, one that can handle Reed and his buddies with ease. Young is much older and doesn’t give off much of a bad ass vibe, not to mention his strikes look ridiculous, as if William Shatner coached him on how to throw judo chops. So while that dampens the tension and serious mood, it adds some unintentional humor and to me, that is fun to watch. The cast also includes William Devlin, Ann Bell, and Flora Robson.