MOVIE: Shutter (2008)

Oh please, like I don’t know what you’re thinking right now?  You’re thinking, “Meg, what the HELL were you THINKING?”  But here’s the thing:  YES, I fully expected this movie to totally stink.  I mean, first of all, it’s an Americanized version of an Asian horror movie, and if there’s one thing we Americans do extremely well, it’s suck all the scariness right out of our horror remakes.  And second of all, the leads are all actors primarily recognizable as TV show supporting characters, which means none of them is what I might describe as a thespian superstar.  There’s Joshua Jackson, better known as Dawson’s Creek sidekick Pacey; David Denman, better known as Pam’s ex-boyfriend on The Office; and, the only truly horrifying moment of this movie for me (because I didn’t know he was in it and can’t stand him), John Hensley, better known as Matt from Nip/Tuck, a character I have what I would describe as a “loathe/hate” relationship with.

NEVERTHELESS, I rented Shutter despite all this because, hey, you never know — maybe someday Americans will remake an Asian horror movie into a movie that isn’t totally lame.  And do I really want to risk missing out on it?  As Whitney Houston would exclaim, “HELL to the no!”

However, for the record, this is NOT that film.  Instead, this might actually be the worst Americanized Asian horror movie I have ever seen.  (Though since I haven’t seen Jessica Alba’s The Eye, I may yet eat those words.  I’ll let you know.)

This stupid, unscary flick is about a newlywed couple, Benjamin (Jackson) and Jane (Rachel Taylor).  Ben is a successful photographer and, unfortunately, he’s just landed an important gig in Japan right as they are supposed to go on their honeymoon.  So, they decide the best thing to do is for Jane to go along and turn the trip into a working vacation.  They have a few days before Ben has to report to Tokyo, so they rent a car and head out on the back roads to a little cabin in the woods.  On the way there, though, Jane is driving when a young woman suddenly appears in the middle of the road.  Unable to stop on the icy street, Jane plows right into her.  But when she and Ben get out of the car to try to help, they can’t find any blood — or the body.  Neither can the cops.  Shaken, Jane and Ben head to their cabin and try to enjoy the few quiet days together they have.

Benjamin takes several photos at the cabin, and once they get to Tokyo, they get the film developed.  But they’re surprised to find that in almost every picture, a white blur appears.  At first, Jane thinks maybe it was the film, or the light at the cabin.  But it keeps happening, even showing up in Ben’s professional photos a few days later.  When Ben’s Japanese assistant sees them, she tells Jane they’re “spirit photos” — photos in which a ghost can be seen.

Jane begins to investigate and eventually figures out that Benjamin is being haunted by the ghost of. . . well, I’ll let you discover that plot point on your own.  Suffice it to say that HOW Jane figures this out is ridiculously inane, and the story of WHY this ghost is haunting Benjamin just made me cranky.  It didn’t fit with Ben’s personality to me.  Or, for that matter, with the personality of anyone who ISN’T a total creep.

That said, there were a few elements of this film that I appreciated for their effectively spooky quality (not that they are at all spooky in this movie, but they might’ve been had they been in a good horror film instead).  The first is a scene in which the lights go out in Benjamin’s studio and the ghost begins setting his high-intensity flash off every few seconds.  She’d flash him, then touch his neck or his hair in the dark, and then flash him again, as he flailed around, terrified and blinded and wondering what in the hell kept brushing up against him.  It was a scene that reminded me both of the similar flash-bulb scene from Rear Window, and also the scene in Wait Until Dark where Alan Arkin freaks the blind Audrey Hepburn out by silently brushing a feather against her face (and by the way, if you’ve never seen Wait Until Dark, you’re missing out on a brilliant and terrifying film).  Good.  The second moment comes at the very end, when we see why Benjamin’s neck hurts — I won’t blow that one for you either, but as far as hauntings go, I kind of appreciated the way the ghost was handling that one.  Lord knows that bastard deserved it.

Anyway, overall, this movie is a frightless stinker with a stupid storyline, a lack of creativity in general, and a bunch of characters so obnoxious it takes only minutes for you to begin rooting for the ghost to send them ALL flying off the 8th floor balcony.  The sad thing is, spirit photos actually have been around since the 1800’s, as one character points out, and I think the concept could make for an extremely effective creepy movie.  But this, alas, is, again, not that film.

Definitely one you can skip, though I could rattle off a list of at least five of you who I know just put this one at the top of your list!   You guys are awesome.

[Netflix me | Buy me]

Genre:  Horror
Cast:  Joshua Jackson, Rachel Taylor, John Hensley, David Denman, Megumi Okina

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7 Responses to “MOVIE: Shutter (2008)”

  1. Alisa Says:

    Meg – You will be eating those words, The Eye SUCKED!! I think perhaps it might have even surpassed One Missed Call.

  2. Liz Says:

    I don’t know if I’m awesome or pathetic, but I saw this movie a week or so ago! And, again, I didn’t hate it as much as you did. I agree, it wasn’t very scary, but I wasn’t really expecting it to be. I did find it kind of interesting, and not as lame as you thought it was (except that I did figure out most of it ahead of time).

    The only actor I recognized was John Hensley, from “Nip-Tuck;” I don’t like the character of “Matt” on the show, but I think the actor is pretty good. And all those guys in this movie were a bunch of low-lifes, who got what they had coming, IMHO.

    I also rented “The Eye” from Netflix, but – gasp – I lost it! So now I have to pay for the d**n thing, and I haven’t even seen it! I know I’m probably not missing much, but I would have at least liked to have determined that for myself!

    BTW, pictures of real people who have died are even creepier than pictures of ghosts! And they actually used to do that! (It figures in the movie, “The Others” )

  3. Verna Says:

    And now I have to see it!

  4. Alisa Says:

    While the magority of americanized horror movies are crap, I have watched a non-remake of a Japanese (did that make sense) horror movie that was really bad. I think maybe an american remake could make it better, that’s how bad it was.

    It was Gui si (silk). It’s about a crippled scientist Hashimoto who uses his invention of “Menger Sponge” to capture the energy of the spirit of a child in an old building… I won’t bore you with more details, but it was just bad.

  5. megwood Says:

    Alisa, you KNOW I just went to Netflix and stuck “Guisi/Silk” in my queue! I’ll be sure to report back on whether or not I think Americans could do a better job.

    Has anybody seen the original Asian version of “Shutter”? Should I be renting that for comparison? I loved the original version of “The Eye” (which has been on IFC a lot lately, for those who might be interested and get that channel). It was really spooky and engaging. But I didn’t actually think the original “Ring” (“Ringu”) or “The Grudge” (“Ju-On”) were all that great. I definitely thought they were spookier than their American counterparts, but still not all that scary. I also was really confused as to what was happening in “Ju-On,” which didn’t help matters much. At least the American version of that one attempted to make a little more sense out of the story (not sure they succeeded, but they did ATTEMPT!).

  6. megwood Says:

    Liz, I’m actually extremely fascinated by those old death photos. I also found this photography exhibit interesting — http://www.wellcomecollection.org/exhibitionsandevents/exhibitions/lifebeforedeath/index.htm

    It’s a set of photos of a group of hospice patients taken right before and right after their deaths. Amazing to see the differences in their faces. I’m sure many others would find such photos distasteful or creepy, but I found it extremely moving. I’ve always been fascinated by photos of people — especially faces — and I found these photos and the courage and strength in the faces they feature, even after death, to be just totally wonderful somehow.

  7. Ellen Says:

    Yes Meg, the photos were actually more interesting than craptastic American remakes of Japanese horror movies!

    Hmmm, strangely I’m now craving sushi…

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