A young woman awakens in fallout shelter and is coerced into horrific acts in order to stay alive.
Zoey, (Cari Sanders,) awakens in the medical facility of an underground fallout shelter. The Doctor, (Will Tulin,) explains that an infection has killed most of the population. The only people left are either a few lone survivors like her and the infected: The living dead.
The Doctor is assisted by a Nurse, (Maria Olsen,) who it seems has gone completely insane. They “treat” a steady stream of survivors/patients. The only way of “curing” the infection is by surgically removing the affected area, which leads to gruesome results.
The Doctor wants Zoey to replace the unstable Nurse and become his new assistant. Zoey is very hesitant to join the Doctor who is willing to do whatever it takes to survive, no matter how questionable or terrible the acts.
But after a patient offers to trade places with Zoey and do “anything” the Doctor wants, Zoey realizes that if she doesn’t do it, someone else will do these terrible things to her.
Zoey has to decide what she is willing to do to survive, and the viewer has to make that same decision: How far would you go to survive?
SHELLTER is a horror film in the vein of SAW and HOSTEL. But SHELLTER goes beyond horror and demonstrates how an average person can be turned into a killer.
The key scene of SHELLTER is the “Shocking” scene that is loosely based on the Milgram experiment conducted at Yale in the 1960’s. In this study, Stanley Milgram tried to determine how the Nazis were able to get ordinary people to do horrific things during the holocaust.
Test subjects volunteered for a psychology experiment about memory, were paired up, and then randomly chosen to be either the Teacher or the Learner. In actuality, the choice was rigged and the Learner was one of the experimenters, who was then wired to a box that delivered electric shocks.
The Teacher, the real test subject, was instructed to increasingly shock the Learner for every wrong answer. The shocking machine was labeled from 1 to 10, mild to lethal.
It was postulated that maybe 1% of the population was sadistic enough to torture and kill another person but the results surprised everyone. Not only did most of these ordinary people shock the Learner to levels of screaming pain, but a full two-thirds of the test subjects shocked the Learner all the way to the lethal end.
While many people were ‘shocked’ with the results of the experiment, it helped explain the behavior of both the German prison guards and the Sondercommandos, the Jewish workers in the concentration camps.
It’s too easy to condemn their actions and say you would never do such terrible things. It’s very different to actually be in that situation and have to choose between your morals or death.
That is the choice that Zoey and you have to make: How far would you go to stay alive?
Don’t kid yourself. You’d do anything.
Another relevant research project is the Stanford Prison Experiment. A group of students were randomly divided into guards and prisoners. The guards received authoritative uniforms and the prisoners were dressed in immodest smocks.
Even though the test subjects were randomly chosen, each group began “acting” like their stereotype: The guards became sadistic and the prisoners became victims. The two-week experiment had to be shut down after only six days.
This is also reflected in SHELLTER. The Doctor and Nurses wear their white uniforms of control and authority, while the victims wear the ill-fitting patient gowns, which strip them of their individuality, modesty and identity.
We watch Zoey transform, as she changes from her patient gown to a Nurse’s uniform and finally the same blue and gray that the Doctor wears.
It is easy to think of these as just psychological studies or things in history books, but remember the saying, "Those who do not study history are forced to repeat it."
If only the guards at Abu Ghraib had studied about the Stanford prison experiment. And we fervently hope everyone will remember the Milgram experiment. No one in the world needs to learn that lesson again.