Shutter (The Original) Review
Written by: jay_wigger
Long-haired Asian ghost girls are all the rage in horror films these days and if you haven't seen one yet, crawl out from under your rock and watch Shutter, newly released under Tartan Video's Asia Extreme line. In fact, even if you've seen them all, this is the one that all others should be judged by. Granted, being such a johnny-come-lately to the scene doesn't make it the most original film of the sub-genre, but it is most assuredly among the better-executed ones.
Shutter is one of the highest grossing Thai films ever, raking in almost $3.5 million (US) at the box office. It was so successful that it was purchased for a Hollywood remake for one of the highest amounts ever paid by a studio for an Asian horror film and is currently in production. Of course, that's almost a no-brainer when the North American success of such films as Ringu (The Ring) and Ju On (The Grudge) is taken into account.
Co-writers and -directors Bangjong Pisonthanakun and Parkpoom Wongpoom were inspired to make Shutter after they'd seen some strange, unidentifiable apparitions in photos that were related to an anti-military riot in 1973 in Bangkok where 77 students were killed. The film begins with young couple Tun (Ananda Everingham, Ghost Delivery, Leap of Love) and Jane (Natthaweeranuch Thongmee, Noodle Delivery) driving home from a friend's wedding and accidentally running down a woman in the road. Against Jane's better judgment, Tun convinces her to drive away from the scene and forget it ever happened. Easier said than done. Soon enough, Jane is haunted in her dreams by a ghostly apparition (long-haired, of course) and freelance photographer Tun's pictures begin to include an uninvited subject (once again, long-haired and ghostly). Although obviously scared of what they're going through, the two embark on a mission to find out just who or what is tormenting them. They go back to the scene of the crime only to find that there wasn't even a report of an accident, let alone a death, and things get weirder yet when they visit the offices of a magazine specializing in ghostly images in photos. What keeps Shutter from becoming simply a copy of films like Dark Water and Ringu is what we learn about who the ghost is and what she means to the protagonists.
While the whole idea behind Shutter is not very original, the way the directors go about setting the tone and using the lighting and soundtrack to boost the palpable feelings of dread and fear is exquisite. They've clearly done their homework in Asian Horror 101 and manage to get the most out of their performers, particularly Everingham as Tun and Achita Sikamana as Natre, the eerie ghost.
Of course, there are the requisite jolts and surprises that come with this type of film, but the reason that Shutter is a cut above the rest is that the scariest parts aren't when Natre appears and surprises her 'victims'. Sure, you may jump out of your seat at some of these scenes, but this has become expected and run-of-the-mill with our long-haired friends. Truly scary films are the ones that give you goosebumps and send shivers down your spine, and there are quite a few of these moments in Shutter, especially whenever a photo is developed in front of our eyes and something that wasn't visible to the naked eye through the lens appears in the picture. Goosebumps and shivers are all too rare in horror cinema these days, forsaken for the good old standbys: blood, gore, and sudden frights. Shutter does the opposite of the norm with a more or less conventional plot, using just enough of these standbys, but really knocking us about with its subtle eeriness.
The DVD: What looked to be promising special features were actually disappointing, if only because they were too short. In the interview with the directors and cast featurette, Pisonthanakun and Wongpoon speak about making the film and heap praise on the two lead actors, who are then briefly interviewed about what they felt they brought to the film. All of this in a very quick four minutes. It could easily have been twice as long and still been interesting.
The 'Behind the Scenes' featurette is comprised of four chapters, the first three each depicting the making of a certain action sequence of the film, with the fourth being an account of how the production had its own ghostly apparition, with photographic evidence. It's a shame that none of these segments are more than 90 seconds long.
What the disc lacked in features, however, it more than makes up for in production quality. The picture is crystal clear in anamorphic widescreen, and for a film that relies heavily on its soundtrack, the 5.1 Dolby Digital or 5.1 DTS Surround options are excellent.
Subtitles are easy to follow and very much in sync, if not always grammatically correct.
Final Thoughts: It's easy to see why Shutter was nominated as Best Film at the Bangkok International film festival and won the Audience Award at the Gérardmer Film Festival, a 'fantasy' genre festival. In taking an almost stale concept and giving it a fresh twist, the filmmakers have succeeded in fashioning an exciting and tense supernatural thriller. Shutter starts off with a bang and doesn't let up for its full 95 minute run time, keeping viewers on the edge of their seats throughout. There's something special about a horror film when you know what's about to happen and it still scares the bejesus out of you. Shutter is a film you can watch over and over again and be just as creeped out by it every time.