At The Picture Show
Another ghost story with a 'real-life' hook, 'Shutter' goes in one eye and out the other
20th Century Fox
Director: Masayuki Ochiai
Screenplay: Luke Dawson, based on a 2004 screenplay by Banjong
Pisanthanakun, Sopon Sukdapisit and Parkpoom Wongpoom
Starring: Rachael Taylor, Joshua Jackson, David Denman, Megumi Okina, John
Hensley, Maya Hazen and James Kyson Lee
Rated PG-13 / 1 hour, 25 minutes
(out of four)
I'm pretty sure Shutter is trying to be one of those pseudo-serious thrillers that
takes real-life, unexplained phenomena and tries to make it scary. Think White
Noise or Stigmata or Signs (OK fine, crop circles had already been explained by
2002 . . . but hey, it was still a good movie).
I think this is the case because, on its face, the premise for this movie isn't a very
The phenomenon that Shutter explores is that of
"spirit photography" - or as it's known in common parlance, "blurry" or "streaky."
In Shutter, the white smudge across the picture is not evidence of a bad roll of film
or a problem with the aperture, or even the titular shutter - no, it is a ghost from
someone's past that is out to get a young married couple.
(Oh, and by the way, after a bit of lazy Internet digging, I discovered that there's a
phenomenon called Spontaneous Human Involuntary Invisibility. Awesome. I'm
writing that movie. Dibs.)
Moving on: The couple is Benjamin Shaw (Joshua Jackson, of The Mighty
Ducks fame), a hotshot young photographer, and his lovely wife, Jane, played by
Rachael Taylor - whom you might remember as the inexplicable, hot Australian
scientist from Transformers.
A brief aside:
Talent file for Rachael Taylor:
5. Can do a wicked Australian accent . . . what with being from Australia and all.
Oh, and one more fun bit of trivia: According to IMDb, she "[kept] her native
accent in Transformers to emphasize the global scope of the movie."
Back to the review: Benjamin and his darling
newlywed have just moved across the world to Tokyo for his new job, where he's
reunited with two old friends . . . AND A SECRET FROM HIS PAST!
They're driving to their honeymoon cabin their first night in town - down a dark
road in the middle of the woods, of course - when suddenly a girl appears right in
their line of sight. Jane swerves at the last minute, but hits the girl anyway (cue
some pretty cool body-crunching sounds as the car runs her over) and the car
spirals out of control. When Ben and Jane come to and go back out to the road, the
girl is nowhere to be found. Maybe it was an animal.
But from then on, they can't shake her. She appears in pictures, in lenses, in
darkrooms, in reflections. She's real, all right, and only after the obligatory
"Maybe it's just the stress!" / "Ghosts aren't real!" cynicism do our heroes start to
understand what they're up against.
I like a good ghost story as much as the next guy, but the details that might make a
concept like Shutter interesting never really materialize. Like too many other
horror movies, this one was made on auto-pilot. Cast a couple of good-looking
young people (acting talent optional). Write an easy-to-follow, easy-to-manipulate
supernatural storyline. Give it a modern, usually technological hook. Throw in a
bunch of red-herring jump-scares. (Ah! I thought it was a ghost coming up from
behind me! But it was just my husband bringing me roses! Ah!) Have a couple
people die mysteriously. Tack on a twist ending.
Maybe even two twist endings.
All logical issues aside, the biggest problem with a
movie like Shutter is its utter lack of conviction to crafting good horror. It's
concerned only with the familiar elements the genre requires - not with making
them stand out, or with creating an eerie or even terrifying experience, or in
having any lasting impact whatsoever. That's what a horror movie does. Shutter is
not a horror movie; it's a cheap, plastic imitation.
Read more by Chris Bellamy