The Descent brought us hideous creatures revealed by night vision cameras and White Noise made us aware of hidden messages in sound recordings. But what if our ‘still’ cameras started to capture scary stuff? Huh? Yeah that’s right, taking photos isn’t even safe anymore!
But before you watch this film and get too worried about it all, I should point something out. This film is an imitation J-horror (or should I say A-Horror). Brought to us by the producers of The Ring and The Grudge remakes. Not so worried now? I thought not.
Yes, imitation A-horror is/was like a horrible disease. As soon as scary Asian films hit the big time, there were people in the states trying to take the ideas and sell them on for fat profits. The ghosts with white make up and thick eye-liner; the jerky walking; hopeless female lead; and quite often, spooky kids.
After a while producers got even lazier. Instead of remaking Asian classics in a Western setting, they started to set them in Asia, but with Western actors (The Grudge). Shutter takes this a step further. Not a remake of an Asian classic, a remake of a pretty mediocre film, with very little ‘A-horror’ in it. It’s set in Japan, but that’s just about as Japanese as it gets.
It’s like the lead character and everyone that they know is American!
Driving late one night model Jane Shaw and her partner Ben, a photographer are nearly killed when they hit a wandering pedestrian on a quiet rural road.
They hit a tree and after regaining consciousness Jane is puzzled to see that the pedestrian (or their body) is nowhere to be seen.
The couple shrug off the accident and get back to their lives, being ‘in love’ and enjoying their new careers in Japan.
However, things start to get a bit creepy when they notice funny blurs showing up in their photos. It’s curious in their personal snaps and downright irritating when Ben is trying to do a big money photo shoot and the images come out all blurred.
With a bit of research Jane finds out about spirit photography and realises that there is some kind of ghost following her and her husband about. The dead pedestrian wanting to complain to them about being run over? Or a more sinister entity from Ben or Jane’s past, trying to tell them something?
So, Shutter‘s story isn’t groundbreaking. And the whole idea of it being set in Japan is a bit weird and irritating. But to begin with, the film wasn’t that bad.
It looked good and had me interested enough to keep watching. For an I-A-Horror (that’s what I’ll call them from now on) it had me surprisingly intrigued.
Rachel Taylor (Jane) plays a good lead, even if she is a bit stupidly slow to act on the freaky things going on around her – obviously more the writer’s fault than the actress.
There are some nice touches and lots of jump enducing scenes. In particular when Ben finds himself trapped in a dark studio with the ghost and only the periodic flashing of camera lights to allow him to see what’s going on. A wee bit nasty.
But as if often the case, the touches, effects and basic concept are all let down by one critical thing. A stupid story – and in particular the reason why the ghost is following the unfortunately couple.
It’s hard to really delve into the stupidness without really giving away too much. But let’s just say that the ghost is out for revenge (aren’t they always in J Horror?), and the whole reason for that revenge and method that the ghost uses to exact it, are just weird and unimaginative.
As often happens when I criticise horror films, my thoughts are whisked off to the film company offices when the idea is first being pitched.
In this instance, I’m imagining a cocky writer, selling the whole ‘ghosts caught on photographs’ idea, and the studio execs are loving it. And when asked about why the ghost is in the photos, the cocky writer mumbles, then says something along the lines of ‘it doesn’t matter anyway, as long as we have a cool trailer and that it looks like a J horror’.
Somehow, the film is approved, and we’re left with a big money film that really doesn’t offer us horror enthusiasts much more than a couple of reasonable concepts. Concepts that are wasted and soon forgotten when the silly bits start.
They really must be hard up for ideas out there, mustn’t they?
Maybe it’s about time that I pitched my idea about man-eating plastic bags again…