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Directed By Masayuki Ochiai
Starring Joshua Jackson, Rachel Taylor
Hollywood is always a few years behind when it comes to international films. It seems like every other month Hollywood is churning out a new remake of some Asian horror film that features a ghost portrayed as a pale girl with long black hair in her face. This formula oversaturated the Asian market a few years ago and it’s overdone here too but it appears that many studios haven’t realized that yet. These films are low budget quick money so as long as a few people still go see them they’ll continue to be made. Now with that said, for every three or four horrible ones there just might be one good one. So as these movies flow off the big screen onto DVD shelves I keep hoping for the good ones to roll across my desk.

The Movie

Somehow Asian filmmakers are able to take inanimate objects such as cameras and cell phones and make them scary. That sort of filmmaking doesn’t usually translate to creepy films here in the states. This film is about a ghost that haunts a couple initially via photos they take with their camera. The husband just so happens to be a professional photographer, allowing an excuse for many photos to be taken. This film also plays on the fish out of water cliché that was also used for the remake of The Grudge putting the couple in Japan, having moved there for a new job. Putting the couple in Japan is a sign of weakness, or one of them, on the part of the writing and directing. This is supposed to be a domestic remake of an Asian film, so shouldn’t we expect to see the film made in the United States? Don’t get me wrong, the shots on the streets are some of the very few high points in this film, but if you’re going to do a remake then do something truly unique with it. The horrific elements of the film are taken note for note from the original so in order to make them work I believe the filmmakers believed that they had to set the film in Asia for legitimacy.

Shutter is very much paint by numbers and surprisingly style free. Many of these films are directed by one time music video directors so they are highly stylized even if they are missing any depth. This film is just flat most of the time when it comes to style. On the upside Joshua Jackson was fine in his role and Rachel Taylor is particular great here. I had seen her in other films but didn’t remember her but here she often rescues the film with her performance. After an accident where the couple runs down a young woman whose body is never found mysterious halos begin appearing in every photo they take. Soon the ghost begins manifesting itself in more violent ways and the couple must learn the origin of the ghost to survive, of course revealing several plot twists.

To properly enjoy films like this you have to approach them as supernatural mysteries rather than horror films. If you go into Shutter with that in mind you’re more likely to stick with the film. It’s missing a little bit of the investigation that’s typical of a hardcore mystery but there’s enough there for casual fans to enjoy it. The performances save a film that’s very cliché and as I said flat on style. If you’re a fan of the original this may be worth a look for comparison plus there are some shots at locales around Japan that may be of interest too. Even in its unrated version here (four minutes longer) Shutter is fairly tame and features way more of the clichéd fake out scares than actual ones and when the real ones come they are a bit on the cheesy side.

4/10

The Video

The anamorphic widescreen presentation here is overall good looking but far from perfect. Some brighter colors, especially reds tend to bloom just a bit and add noise to the image. There’s also a good bit of aliasing and some grain in backgrounds here and there. The review copy we were sent is a check disc so I don’t know if the final version will look any better.

5/10

The Audio

The Dolby Digital 5.1 presentation is good with caveats. There’s some good immersion in important scenes of the film and in other scenes dialogue gets a bit too covered by music and effects.

6/10

The Packaging and Bonus Features

We were sent a check disc so there’s no packaging to discuss. There’s an audio commentary with production executive Alex Sundell, screenwriter Luke Dawson and actress Rachael Taylor. The majority of the running time is spent going over plot points and discussing the characters with no extra depth that couldn’t be culled just from watching the film. Overall this is just an uninteresting commentary track.

There’s a bevy of brief featurettes that are made up of interviews from the cast and crew and a bit of behind the scenes footage. A Ghost in the Lens is a brief general discussion o the film with the cast and crew with scenes from the film sprinkled in. There’s nothing really deep here, just typical marketing stuff. It is amusing to hear one of the producers say that he prefers slow building horror over “jump scares” considering just how many of those scares are in his movie. A Culture Divided: Shooting in Japan is an interesting featurette that lacks focus. It starts by covering the difficulties of filming in Japan and moves to stories about the stuntman and the odd things he has to do for his work. There’s a brief feature focused on the director that’s simply an interview with him. He shares what attracted him to the story and his thoughts on Asian horror films. There’s an interview with the screenwriter where he discusses the development of the script and the changes that had to be made for this American version. There’s a featurette covering spirit photography, a spirit photography game of sorts, and text trivia about ghost hunting. Finally there’s a set of alternate/deleted scenes.

There’s actually a good bit of time spent on bonus features for this film. The only problem is that these featuretes are all pretty shallow stuff.

6/10

The Review
The Movie 4/10
The Video 5/10
The Audio 6/10
The Packaging and Bonus Features 6/10
Overall (Not an Average) 6/10

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