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Shutter (2008)

20th Century Fox Home Entertainment
DVD Released: 7/15/2008

All Ratings out of
Video: 1/2
Extras: 1/2

Review by Mike Long, Posted on 7/14/2008

When it comes to the remake cycle, everyone has an opinion. Some are for it, some are against it, and some are neutral. For me, it all depends on the movie in question -- I'm all for remaking bad movies. When it comes to the recent spat of remakes of Asian horror films, I generally frown upon this. Some believe that American audiences won't accept foreign films, thus they must be remade in America. But, movies like Ringu, Ju-on, and The Eye are all great films which succeed on their own, and in each case, the remake is inferior. The latest entry into this cycle is Shutter, which is based on a Thai film. I haven't seen the original version of Shutter, but considering how weak this movie is, I can only assume that the Asian version is better.

Shutter opens with the wedding of Ben (Joshua Jackson) and Jane (Rachael Taylor). Ben is a photographer, and he has just gotten an assignment in Tokyo, so they decide to combine this with a honeymoon in Japan. Following their arrival, they are driving to a cabin near Mt. Fuji, when a young woman walks onto the road. Jane, who is driving, is convinced that they hit her, but no body is found. So, they continue with their trip as planned. While Ben is busy with work, Jane wanders the city -- a stranger in a strange land. Soon, Jane begins to see the young woman around Tokyo. The photos from Ben's shoot come back with strange, ethereal images on the pictures. Jane begins to look into spirit photography and becomes convinced that a ghost is coming through the pictures. However, she isn't able to track down the woman that she keeps seeing. But, the deeper that she digs, the more Jane becomes convinced that the strange woman and the unusual photos are connected.

Again, I haven't seen the original version of Shutter, but I've seen enough other Asian horror movies to know that this is a tepid and forgettable entry. This movie is filled with missed opportunities. The idea of spirit photography -- of the dead appearing in photographs in an attempt to send some sort of message from beyond the grave -- is decidedly creepy and is the perfect jumping off point for a movie. However, the images in Shutter aren't the least big disturbing. (To get a basis for comparison, simply check out the "Japanese Spirit Photography Videos" on the DVD's extra features. That's some spooky s*!t.) At first, the blemishes on the photos are simply blurs, but once they'll transform into an actual spectral presence, they simply aren't scary.

The film also fails when the ghost appears in a more corporeal form. While the ghost here isn't exactly like the long-haired female ghosts which appear in Ringu and Ju-on -- her hair is about medium length and we can always see her face -- she, again, simply isn't scary. She simply appears, makes a few threatening gestures and then disappears. During the third act, she becomes truly vicious, but by that time, it's far too late to scare us. This part of the film becomes oddly edited, as there are two back to back scenes which play as nearly identical.

The blame for lack of scares in the film rests solely on the shoulders of Director Masayuki Ochiai, who, on the DVD extras, states, "I personally hate ghosts." Well, he's not going to please ghosts or ghost movie fans with this movie. Ochiai, who made the impressive The Hypnotist, seems determined to make a ghost-free ghost movie, and the result is a tedious, flat movie. The use of the Tokyo locations helps the film, and the final twist at the end is quite creative, but the lack of any creepiness or scares negates any point of seeking out this film. In the end, Shutter didn't make me shudder.

Shutter gets developed on DVD courtesy of 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment. The film has been letterboxed at 1.85:1 and the transfer is enhanced for 16 x 9 TVs. For the purpose of this review, a special preview disc was viewed. The image is fairly sharp and clear, showing no grain or defects from the source material. The colors are good, and the nighttime scenes are never overly dark. The image has a fairly good amount of detail and the landscapes look fine. However, video noise and pixellation were quite prevalent here, but, again, this could be a factor of the screener disc. The DVD carries a Dolby Digital 5.1 audio track which provides clear dialogue and sound effects. The track features some pretty good surround and subwoofer effects, especially during the car-wreck scene. The stereo effects are fine, and they come into play during the haunting scenes.

The Shutter DVD contains many extra features. We start with an AUDIO COMMENTARY by Production Executive Alex Sundell, Screenwriter Luke Dawson, and actress Rachael Taylor. This is an OK talk, but it seems that only Taylor was there for the actual filming of the movie. Sundell and Dawson talk a lot about the preparation of the film and translating movie-talk to Ochiai. "A Ghost in the Lens" (8 minutes) focuses on the film, but discusses the Asian view of ghosts, spirits, and hauntings. Here, we learn the meaning of "yurei", a ghost in Japanese culture. In "A Cultural Divide: Shooting in Japan" (9 minutes), the actors and writer talk about making the film in Japan and the pace of life in Tokyo. "The Director: Masayuki Ochiai" (10 minutes) is an interview with the director where he talks about how he approached Shutter and his thoughts on the original film, and he also says "I personally hate ghosts." I don't know if I would say that! In "A Conversation with Luke Dawson" (6 minutes) the screenwriter talks about the evolution of the script, and his personal views on horror. "A History of Spirit Photography" (5 minutes) begins in the late 1800s and examines how the first spirit photographs were taken and how they fit into the "spiritualist movement". "Create Your Own Phantom Photo" (4 minutes) gives step-by-step instruction on how to PhotoChop your own scary picture. "The Hunt for the Haunt: Tools and Tips for Ghost Hunting" (2 minutes) again gives step-by-step instructions on how to find a ghost. "Fox Movie Channel Presents In Character with Joshua Jackson" (2 minutes) is a brief interview with the actor. "Japanese Spirit Photography Videos" (17 minutes) has three videos from Japan which show a hunt for ghosts. (This reminded me of Ju-on 2.) This is some weird stuff, and the last one is really uncalled for. The Disc contains 15 ALTERNATE AND DELETED SCENES which run about 27 minutes. Most of these are merely extended character moments, but a few fill in some gaps and the extended ending is interesting.

20th Century Fox Home Entertainment has also brought Shutter to Blu-ray Disc. The film has been letterboxed at 1.85:1 and the Disc contains an AVC 1080p HD transfer which runs at an average of 30 Mbps. The image is very sharp and clear, showing no grain and no overt defects. The colors look fantastic and the image is very well-balanced -- the picture is never too bright or too dark. The image has a great amount of depth, especially when it looks down the Tokyo streets. The detail level is good and the skintones look realistic. The Disc has a DTS HD Master Audio 5.1 track which runs at 48 kHz and an average of 4.0 Mbps. The track offers clear dialogue and sound effects. The subwoofer "horror boom" effects during the scare scenes is quite effective, as is the surround sound during these scenes. Again, the accident scene offers a whirling dervish of sound which careens around the room. Overall, a fairly solid Blu-ray offering.

Review Copyright 2008 by Mike Long