Take Shelter is one of those movies that just sticks with you. Not to take anything away from the story or the filmmaking but without Michael Shannon, it simply would not have had the same impact. The actor certainly has experience playing psychologically troubled characters — from extreme paranoid Peter Evans in Bug, to his recent role as religious zealot Agent Nelson Von Alden in the HBO series Boardwalk Empire — but Shannon never retreads. Each person he plays is just that: a person. I don't know how he does it, how he manages to imbue a different sort of nuance into these scripted men, but I am fine with not knowing as long as he keeps on doing it.
As Curtis in Take Shelter, Shannon is a blue collar husband and father in a small town, just trying to earn a living and keep on keeping on. He's got a simple life, but a good one. That is, until… (Yes, this IS a review for horror.com, after all) …strange dreams and horrifying visions of an impending apocalypse plague him to the point of utter madness. While the movie is not technically a genre film, it is presented and directed as such in many of the key scenes and is actually much scarier and more tension-filled than a lot of so-called horror movies out there. [Read our theatrical release review of Take Shelter here.]
The DVD and Blu-ray of Take Shelter has lots of extras on it, but not *too* many (it's not like it's Lord of the Rings or anything, where there are a million different avenues behind the scenes to explore).
First time feature writer-director Jeff Nichols and Shannon do a commentary, and while Shannon comes off as fun and easygoing and it's refreshing to hear that, the information dispensed is the usual "Oh, I remember when we shot this," and, "Yeah, that dog was really well-trained." (Kenny the dog; he was a champion in Schutzhund competition, apparently.) It was probably recorded before the movie was even released, and therefore has zero perspective. But what's more, there isn't a lot of discussion on the ailment of schizophrenia, nor is there any discussion on possible cinematic references to other takes on the apocalypse.
I would have liked a little more 'cinephile' type talk, but there's a kernel here and there of goodness: Nichols reveals that he "has a fear of" hand-held camera, but that Shannon suggested it for one of the dream sequences and he's glad he did. Shannon talks about an entire subplot that was filmed but eliminated (a flirtation between Curtis and a receptionist for the construction company) and isn't even on the extras. Actually, that sounds like a good call: anything extraneous would definitely have detracted from the intensity of the story.
They also discuss the importance of casting the one-scene characters, who must make an impression and then never be seen again. The most notable of these is Kathy Baker, who plays Curtis's mom. That's an interesting discussion, as is the talk about Jessica Chastain's sometimes questioning her portrayal of Curtis's wife as being too harsh and not sympathetic enough.
One good thing I can say about the innocuous yak-track is: at least it doesn't cover the exact same ground as the Behind The Scenes featurette (as is so often the case). Behind the scenes gives us a visual on the writer-director, who talks about the motivation for having written the script in the first place — the fact that his career was going well, he'd just gotten married and was blissfully in love, and how a strange, out-of-nowhere paranoia crept in… everything was going too well. What if it was all just a false sense of security and something bad was actually going to happen? Chastain is also interviewed in the featurette, and she talks about how she sees Take Shelter as a love story, first and foremost. It's also interesting to hear a few comments from costar Shea Wigham, who had worked with Shannon many times (including on Boardwalk Empire) and what it's like to collaborate with such a dedicated actor.
There is also a SAG Q&A from a prerelease screening of the film, and is basically just that: Shannon and Shea on folding chairs, badly lit, hollowly recorded, in front of a movie screen in a theater answering stock questions from a moderator and the audience. I don't mind Q&A's in person — they are definitely a "you had to be there" type experience — but watching them on a TV screen isn't too entertaining.
Rounding out the features are two deleted scenes. One is a follow-up counseling session in which Curtis reveals a little more about his visions, and the other is between Curtis and his wife. Both are mildly interesting, but not essential.
Overall, the movie is the star attraction when it comes to the DVD but it's still worth owning for fans of the film because there are a few little trivia tidbits which are worthwhile.
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Reviewed by Staci Layne Wilson