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Originally published October 20, 2011 at 6:08 AM | Page modified October 20, 2011 at 6:08 AM

Scarecrow Video recommendations for "Take Shelter"

This week sees the release of one of the best films you're likely to see all year, "Take Shelter." It stars Michael Shannon, who you might have seen in HBO's "Boardwalk Empire" as the devout but crazy Treasury Agent Van Alden.

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This week sees the release of one of the best films you're likely to see all year, "Take Shelter." It stars Michael Shannon, who you might have seen in HBO's "Boardwalk Empire" as the devout but crazy Treasury Agent Van Alden.

Here Shannon plays Curtis, a simple family man in rural Ohio. He works in construction, struggles with his finances, loves his wife and daughter (who is deaf, compounding the family's money woes); basically he could be anyone. Except that he is having terrifying visions of a coming apocalyptic storm. Given that his mother has suffered from severe paranoid schizophrenia since he was a teenager, Curtis no longer knows what is real or imaginary, a troubling circumstance he conceals from his family.

This is a meticulous, quiet and deeply suspenseful film, anchored by Shannon's amazing lead performance. So we thought we'd recommend not only some similar films, but some similar films in which he also stars.

Start with "Shotgun Stories," the debut feature from "Take Shelter's" director, Jeff NIchols. Another rural drama, this more grounded film centers around two sets of half-brothers, focusing on Shannon's eldest, named Son. When their father dies, a feud erupts between them that inevitably leads to violence. But this isn't some sort of exploitation film; rather it's a measured examination of the very simple but very intense pressure that family loyalty can place upon someone.

If you're looking for something a bit more stylized and along "Take Shelter's" hallucinogenic lines, try William Friedkin's 2006 film "Bug." Based on a play by Tracy Letts, it stars Ashley Judd as a woman who, after finally escaping from her abusive husband, holes up in a rundown motel. When a friend introduces her to Peter (Shannon) they slowly form a relationship, but Peter is a dangerously unstable man whose grip on reality is not the strongest. To say a lot more would spoil the fun, but this is a quick and dirty little thriller that just keeps piling on the darkness.

Somewhere in the Venn Diagram that covers all three of the film's mentioned is iconoclastic genius filmmaker Werner Herzog's "My Son, My Son, What Have Ye Done." Based (loosely) on a real incident, Shannon plays a man who murders his mother with an antique sword, then goes across the street to take a few hostages. What follows involves flashbacks to a strange kayaking trip to Peru, an ostrich farm, and even divine visions. This one is, as you can probably figure out, pretty difficult to boil down. But if one or all of the movies we mentioned here worked for you, you should probably check it out.

Til next week!




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