Movie Information

The Story: After a car accident, a young couple in Japan are haunted by a vengeful spirit that likes to deface photographic emulsion. The Lowdown: Yet another in the seemingly endless procession of rehashed Asian-horror movies. Dull, derivative and dumb, with only a few good moments to break the monotony.
Genre: Horror Lite
Director: Masayuki Ochiai
Starring: Joshua Jackson, Rachael Taylor, Megumi Okina, David Denman, John Hensley, Maya Hazen
Rated: PG-13

It’s hard to dislike any film with such preposterously convenient contrivances as the line, “My ex-boyfriend works for a spirit-photography magazine,” or a plot that expects us to accept the idea that a corpse can just sit and rot for a year or so in a suburban house without anyone noticing. It’s hard, but Shutter manages to generate a strong case of ennui, if not outright dislike.

Looked at dispassionately—in other words, without considering the waste of 85 minutes of your life—it’s nothing more than the latest Hollywooden rehash of yet another J-horror film. Or it would be, except that we’ve now gone past Japan and started in on the rest of Asia with SK-horror (South Korea), HK-horror (Hong Kong) and now T-horror (Thailand) with Shutter. This potentially confusing alphabet-soup of horror importation is now simply A-horror (Asian). Frankly, they could call it Ho-Hum-horror and that would suit me fine.

The rehash did work once—Gore Verbinski’s The Ring (2002) took the J-horror Ringu (1998) and improved on it at every turn—but it’s been downhill from there. And while Shutter is probably no worse than The Ring 2 (2005), The Grudge (2004), Dark Water (2005), Pulse (2006), The Grudge 2 (2006) or One Missed Call (2008), and marginally better than The Eye (2008), it suffers from cumulative mediocrity. In other words, there’s only so much recycled rubbish you can endure without wanting to take a hostage.

Despite the promotion of Shutter as something a little different—a creepy thriller about spirit photography—it’s essentially just another ghost-with-a-grudge yarn. (And most of these are just variations on the 1981 U.S. thriller Ghost Story, which this one resembles more than most.) The spirit-photography angle is nothing more than a device for figuring out what the damned spirit is up to this time.

Worse, you’ll probably figure that out long before the largely TV-refugee cast does, especially since the presumptive hero, Ben (Dawson’s Creek alumnus Joshua Jackson), has two of the most transparently sleazy best friends imaginable, Bruno (David Denman, TV’s The Office) and Adam (John Hensley, TV’s Nip/Tuck). These boys have “bad news” written all over them, which is not coincidental, and neither is the fact that Ben seems a little on the sketchy side himself. Regardless, it makes no sense that they can’t figure out what’s afoot with all these specter-infested snapshots. For that matter, it doesn’t make a whole lot of sense that Ben’s new wife, Jane (Rachael Taylor, Transformers), takes as long as she does to detect the faint aroma of perfidy.

Taylor has commented to the media that director Masayuki Ochiai doesn’t speak much English, but surely someone involved might have noticed how dumb and dramatically wanting all this was. It might have been excusable to some degree if the film managed to generate some atmosphere, and in all fairness, it very occasionally does. There are a handful of creepy moments and one moderately intense scene (unfortunately, it occurs about halfway through the picture), but these aren’t enough to overcome the been-there-done-that dullness that pervades the bulk of the film. Rated PG-13 for terror, disturbing images, sexual content and language.

About Ken Hanke
Head film critic for Mountain Xpress from December 2000 until his death in June 2016. Author of books "Ken Russell's Films," "Charlie Chan at the Movies," "A Critical Guide to Horror Film Series," "Tim Burton: An Unauthorized Biography of the Filmmaker."

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8 thoughts on “Shutter

  1. Dionysis

    This review is about what was expected based upon the television trailers. No surprise. Speaking of spirits being captured by cameras (not a completely original idea), it’s worth seeking out a clever horror/sci-fi film from Britain called THE ASPHYX (1973). It’s hard to find now (out of print on DVD) but worth the search.

  2. Ken Hanke

    Is THE ASPHYX that movie with Robert Powell? If so, I’ve always been curious to see it.

    I will say one thing for SHUTTER, it’s probably the only movie that has a ghost that goes around on piggy-back. I suspect that’s an accolade it can always wear with pride.

  3. Dionysis

    “Is THE ASPHYX that movie with Robert Powell? If so, I’ve always been curious to see it.”

    Yes, it is with Robert Powell (and he turns in an excellent performance). I’m surprised you’ve not seen it, but I hope you get the chance to as it is really quite a unique and well-done movie.

    This is not a spoiler, but in the event you find a copy of the film, pay particular attention to the first few minutes. They may seem slightly odd until the ending, when the imagery comes back like a sledgehammer.

  4. Ken Hanke

    “I’m surprised you’ve not seen it”

    Somehow it’s just never crossed my path. But then again, who can see everything? I always remember Josef von Sternberg’s claim that when he retired from filmmaking he was going to take up Chinese philately. When asked why, he said he wanted a hobby he could never exhaust. He could have said the movies for the same reason.

  5. TigerShark

    >>>Speaking of spirits being captured by cameras (not a completely original idea),

    Oh, is that what this is about? Couldn’t tell from the “review.”

  6. Justin Souther

    “…a creepy thriller about spirit photography—it’s essentially just another ghost-with-a-grudge yarn…”

  7. suman

    Speaking of spirits being captured by cameras does not sounds real

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