Thursday, October 27, 2011

Sketched Discussion: Take Shelter

I really really want to talk about the ending to Take Shelter.  I reviewed the movie in the last article, and I shared how disappointed I was with the ending. Why it's disappointing has to do with what I was expecting in relation to other movies in a similar vein. But if you haven't seen it yet, don't read. Go out and see it and then come back and we can discuss. Ok you saw it? Good. MAJOR SPOILERS after the jump.

The whole question in Take Shelter is whether Curtis is crazy and all this storm nonsense is in his head, or if it really is some kind of feeling that's warning him of an impending storm.  Through the whole film I was wondering what would happen, but in the back of my mind I was SURE there would be an actual storm and that he would be justified in his craziness.

You see, in movies like this that are a debate between being crazy and being right (especially if it has religious connotations, i.e. "God is sending me messages") most of the time the main character is right and something horrible does come to pass. There's a lot of reasons for this; it's different from what you'd expect from real life, it provides the main character, and through association the audience, a sense that they were right all along, it panders to the probably many religious followers in the audience, and they get to use all those cool special effects for the big finale. But because of that, now we expect them to be right.  Especially in horror films where that's the whole premise.

So in the end, the whole town thinks he's bonkers, he's lost his job, his best friend, most of their money is gone, but he has this fully functional storm shelter complete with toilet and gasmasks. Then there's a storm outside and the family all run down to the storm shelter. They wait it out for awhile.  Then there's a big dramatic scene in which his wife wants him to open the door but he doesn't want to because he doesn't think it's passed yet, and he finally opens it and...nothing. There was a little rain storm, some power lines downed, but other than that, none the worse for ware. This is the big climax where he realizes he really is crazy and needs professional help.  And I was pretty happy with that.


He goes to a shrink, they tell him he needs to go away to an institution for serious treatment, but first he should get away and go on a vacation. So they go, they enjoy themselves at a far away beach, and then they see a storm on the horizon. A huge storm with multiple tornadoes and it's raining think yellow goopy rain for some reason. They're too far away from their shelter, his wife gives him a "you were right" look, and then the movie ends.

Well thanks for ultimately proving me right, movie. It's a bittersweet feeling. It's one of those times I didn't want to be right. I would have been so much happier with the "No he's actually cray cray" ending. Here's the problem: They don't really explain what the storm is exactly, or where it came from, and you don't get to see it's total craziness or find out if they get through it. It's very unsatisfying and feels like a copout. I mean, if it had been just a huge huricane on the horizion that would be fine, but what the hell is this yellow oily rain? Is he still dreaming? Have they all gone crazy? Is this the end of days? You can't just end it on something like that with no explanation.

Here's what I was hoping for with the ending.  They didn't really speicfy what year it was, and from the looks of things it could have been modern but just very rural, or it could have been the early 90's. I was thinking they could have been connecting it to some real world tragedy that already occurred in the past, some big hurricane, an oil spill, the gulf war, Columbine, and the storm was really an analogy for that something, and that would have been great. That would have been an amazing twist ending to realize "Oh wow, this is what they were talking about and this is what it all means!" But that's not what we got.

It also would have been nice if we got a big ol' end of the world finale with people rising form the dead and killing each other, everyone turning, the world being destroyed, and Curtis and his family the loan family who now has to rebuild. It wouldn't have fit with the rest of the movie but that would have been cool. But that's not what we got.

Honestly, what I really would have liked to see is if there was still something coming but it didn't have anythign to do woth a storm. Say there was some big explosion at his job, or they were digging into a gas pocket that exploded with oil everywhere and clouds of gas.  And since he was fired and committed, and his wife and daughter had to move away back home because she couldn't afford the house anymore, they were all saved. Then a scene with Curtis' friend watching the tragedy on TV thinking how lucky he was to get fired.  No storm, per se, but because he was so obsessed with building this shelter and drove everyone away, he saved them all.  Then it would be up to the audience to question whether this was all on purpose or if it was just a freak accident and it was luck.  That would have been amazing. But we didn't get that.

What we got is a copout. Obviously the ending is saying that Curtis is right, but he's not saying why or to what intent. In his visions we see birds acting crazy then dropping out of the sky, huge tornadoes, and people(his wife and best friend included) going crazy from unholy yellow rain. What does this all mean? Where did it come from? What happens? I would have liked it better if it had ended a couple of scenes sooner with the end point Curtis actually being crazy, but I wouldn't have minded the "he was right about the shitstorm" ending if they had explained it better.


  1. wrong. think of the ending some more. the point of the end is ANYTHING but "he was right all the time, lol." the point is his wife and kid see what he sees i.e. they see the "storm"(mental illness) and they will help him through the storm like they did during the real storm earlier. in his dreams the rain turned his wife against him, in the end she touches the rain and she doesnt change. this could very well be a final happier dream, its impossible to prove either way. the important thing is they see what he sees

  2. Well that is definitely one interpretation.