Thursday, July 22, 2010

'Shutter' director didn't know when to quit

Shutter (2008)
Starring: Joshua Jackson, Rachel Taylor, and Megumi Okina
Director: Masayuki Ochiai
Rating: Four of Ten Stars

A fashion photographer (Jackson) and his wife (Taylor) are on a working honeymoon in Japan when his past literally comes back to haunt him. The ghost of a woman he dated years earlier (Okina) starts appearing in photos he takes and manifesting in increasingly threatening ways.

"Shutter" is for most of its running time a fairly decent ghost movie that is a nice cross-pollination between Western and Eastern ideas about the what, why, and how of hauntings and vengeful spirits. Unfortunately, it starts to break down as the story builds to the Great Reveal when the girlfriend is shown to have been dead for several years yet no-one has checked on her... despite the fact her front door has been standing open for all that time.

(I suppose one could argue that the ghost has been wandering around the house and neighborhood so no one knew she was dead. But does that mean she also went and got a job at another firm after she had died? What about friends and family? The way the discovery of Megumi's corpse was handled in the film was such an extreme example of bad writing that I've knocked off a whole point on the ratings scale.)

In all other aspects, the film is very well done. The filmmakers make a particularly excellent use of sound throughout the movie, using it to enhance suspense in subtle ways as well as during the film's few "Boo!"-type moments. The lighting and cinematography is likewise very well done. The script is also well-written, and I was particularly happy to see they did more with the denouement than the now-expected "let's toss in one more scare." (In fact, what you THINK is the denouement is actually the beginning of the film's true ending.)

The acting is all-around decent, although I would have liked to have seen a slightly more sympathetic and charming actor playing Ben Shaw, the photographer who is the focus of the ghost's attention. Joshua Jackson has a villainous air about hm that never quite allows the viewer to be on his side. If the actor playing Ben had been just a little more charismatic, the sense of horror and dread in this film would have been ar stronger, particularly at the end.

"Shutter" is worth seeing if you enjoy ghost movies, so long as you can accept an annoying instance of no one thinking a particular sequence through. It's high on creepiness but low on blood, so gore hounds should stay away. (Oh, and if you're sick of the whole "isn't long black hair really creepy?!?" standard in these sorts of movies, you'll be glad to hear that we DON'T have that particular trope to sit through here. We got the pale, barefooted ghost chick, but at least her hair isn't everywhere!)


  1. The original Korean version was SO much better! A much better ending that really creeped me out. I have NO IDEA why they changed it for this version?! Crazy! Liked your review a lot!

  2. I've not seen the original, but I've heard so many good things about it that I may have to track it down. Thanks for the comment!

  3. Great review, Steve.
    I haven't seen the orginal either. I kind of saw the remake by mistake and found it a bit dull and too populated by unsympathetic characters for me to care. However, you and Sarah have tempted me to have a look at the proper version.