Wednesday, June 13, 2007


Given Hollywood’s sometimes annoying penchant for the redux, I’m starting this irregular series wherein I’ll be doing two things: either go back and re-watch a film I haven’t seen in a while and finally write a review for it, or, in the case of films I’ve already written reviews for, exhume said reviews, touch them up for public viewing, then have them zombie-toddle onto the world wide web, where they shall hopefully entertain and enlighten, as they were always meant to do.
These reviews will, of course, be of films that have remakes headed towards a multiplex near you.
And first up, Shutter

Looking back…


In the still-burgeoning Asian horror scene, Thailand is best known for having produced the Pang Brothers, who gave us Gin Gwai (The Eye) and its sequel, as well as Bangkok Haunted.
There are, however, other Thai directors who have also contributed to the movement, such as Nonzee Nimibutr, who brought us Jan Dara, as well as the “The Wheel“ segment of the pan-Asian horror anthology, San Geng (Three).
And then there are Banjong Pisanthanakun and Parkpoom Wongpoom, with Shutter.

Photographer Tun (Ananda Everingham), along with his girlfriend Jane (Natthaweeranuch Thongmee), is coming from the reception of a just-married friend, when an apparent accident kicks off the supernatural happenings of the film. Cue the by-now standard long-haired female ghost of the genre, and Shutter goes into full swing.
One of the film’s shortcomings though, is that it doesn’t swing quite as much as one would hope. Though Shutter is pretty evenly-paced, that pace may be a bit too leisurely for its own good. A sense of tension and danger is traded in for a steady, measured creep that falls short of weaving the veil of atmosphere and dread you’re fully expecting it to build up to.
Instead, Shutter seems more interested in wrangling what it can out of its central conceit of spirit photography, than paying closer attention to its story and that story’s pacing. Though the old flip book trick with the photographs is still utilized with creepy effectiveness here, and Tun with the Polaroid towards film’s end is a nice tense sequence with a nifty and macabre pay-off, the other photo-related scares are rather run-of-the-mill.

What cripples Shutter even more is the fact that Tun doesn’t come across as a sympathetic character, and the penultimate reveal makes him even less so. Jane is pretty much a cipher as well, content to play the role of concerned girlfriend caught up in the story’s events simply by association.
Presented thus with characters who aren’t readily identifiable and engaging, the audience is left in the position of impartial observer, like the photographer behind the lens, waiting for just the precise moment when all the elements feel right, and the instant is one worthy of posterity. Sadly, that moment never comes, and we’re left with our thumb hovering over the button, unsatisfied and vaguely annoyed.
Thus, with that buffer between the audience and the story, most of the scares feel filtered and muted. The fact that many of them are old hat doesn’t help either.

The film’s pace and Tun’s likeability as a character are assaulted even further by the decision to leave a chunk of the supernatural goings-on (those not occurring directly to either Tun or Jane) off-screen. When Tun discovers what the ghost has been up to beyond his (and the audience’s) purview, it only serves to make him seem painfully self-involved, making the viewer ask himself, What kind of a friend and person is Tun, really? A question answered towards film’s end, sounding the death knell for whatever little sympathy we may have managed to scrape together for poor Tun.
Ultimately, Shutter isn’t horrible nor is it unwatchable. It just doesn’t rise very much from the merely passable. And though that is better than being pedestrian and mundane, it doesn’t quite cut it in the veritable monsoon of Asian horror films that continues to flood multiplexes from Hong Kong to Tokyo, from Seoul to Bangkok to Manila.

“They are around us,” or so the tagline for Shutter claims, referring of course, to ghosts. But in this day and age, they may as well be talking about Asian horror films. Shoulder to shoulder, their ghosts stand, features obscured by the ebony fall of their long, dark hair. The homogeneity must be broken though, the hair pulled back from the wraiths’ faces, that we may appreciate them in their particularity, rather than the gradually-blurring collective they are becoming, the group picture of them that is losing its color and detail, as the months and years go by.

Since then…

The directing tandem of Pisanthanakun and Wongpoom saw the release of their follow-up horror effort, Faet (Alone), this past March in Thailand.
Haven’t been able to see that one yet, though I am curious…

Looking forward…

The English-language remake has its setting moved to Japan, with Rachel Taylor and Joshua Jackson as the young couple in peril. Taylor can be seen in the WWE horror movie See No Evil, and in the upcoming Transformers, while Jackson is of course, best known as Pacey from the Creek, and has appeared in past horror movies, the so-so Urban Legend and the appropriately titled Cursed.
Also in the remake are Ando himself, James Kyson Lee, Roy from the US redux of The Office, David Denham, and Matt from Nip/Tuck, John Hensley.
It’s directed by Masayuki Ochiai, who gave us Parasaito Ivu (Parasite Eve) and Kansen (Infection), neither of which I was terribly impressed by, but I do hope Ochiai manages to improve on the original, particularly in the lead character department.

(The Shutter review began life under the title, “Out of Focus.”)

(Shutter OS courtesy of

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