Letter From The Editor - Issue 59 - October 2017

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Writing Fantasy

  
At The Picture Show
April 2008

'Shutter' down

Another ghost story with a 'real-life' hook, 'Shutter' goes in one eye and out the other

Shutter
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 good one.

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:

1. Thin.

2. Pretty.

3. Leggy.

4. Blonde.

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."

Oh.

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


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