02 November 2015

SHUTTER/2008

This 2008 remake of a Thai film with the same English title was directed by Masayuki Ochiai and stars Joshua Jackson, Rachel Taylor and Megumi Okina. It has that feel of the Grudge 2 which was also a Japanese, American collaboration. That feel, to be more precise, means that there Americans working in Japan and that the Japanese themselves all supply secondary acting roles except for the evil spirit of course. To be honest for all the Japanese actors we see this could have taken place in the States in any city with a large Asian population. The movie has a few problems but I would recommend it as a boyfriend/girlfriend type movie. I certainly have never been a devotee of ghost films but I know, from living in China, the ghost theme is really a creepy issue with people here and sometimes movies like this can really freak out an Asian audience. I was sort of left wanting more from this PG-13 bloodless, sexless thriller. But my dear Chinese wife Ivy was certainly scared more than a few times and this helped me enjoy the film a little more than if I had watched it alone. One thing is that I am so bored with is the Japanese ghost girl, a yūrei, with pale skin, long black hair and dark circled eyes who basically just sits and stares at you. However that effect sends teenage girls here in China, and I will assume Japan (the last time I was in Japan I was four years old) into a near crying fit. So while it may not effect me it certainly does others.


The story is similar to the Ring series. In that movie the intentions of the malevolent spirit are conveyed through a telephone while in Shutter they are revealed through cameras and photographs, called spirit photography. Benjamin and Jane Shaw (Jackson and Taylor) travel to Tokyo after their wedding so that Benjamin, a professional photographer, can do a high paying assignment there. He has worked in Japan before and has connections and a history there that Jane knows little to nothing about. While traveling down a dark country road one night Jane hits a woman in a thin white dress who appears in the middle of the road causing an accident. Later there is no body or blood on the road and Jane remains shaken up.


Soon blurred white streaks begin to appear on the photographs she and Benjamin take. This is interpreted as spirit photography by Benjamin’s sexy and flirty Japanese assistant Seiko, who it so happens, has an ex-boyfriend who runs a magazine that focuses only on spirit photography. How lucky can you get? While many of the photographs are Photoshopped the ex, Ritsuo, shows Jane his private collection of Polaroids and explains that these cannot be faked. He suggests she see a medium and when she and Benjamin do later the situation does not go well and we get the sense that Bejamin is holding something back as he refuses to translate what the irritated medium has to say.



Jane begins to have vivid dreams and visions and senses an evil force is stalking her and Benjamin, and while Benjamin too is having similar visions he does not talk about it to Jane. Jane is able to deduce the whereabouts of the spirit from studying some of the photographs. She is actually able to determine the building and exact floor number. There she encounters the yūrei and even learns its identity. She really missed out on a career with the FBI here. Turns out the ghost is the spirit of a translator Benjamin had worked with before in Japan named Megumi. He and Megumi had an affair where she became obsessive and dependent on him after her father’s death. This is a small dilemma for Benjamin and he does what most foreign men working in Asia do when confronted with a neurotic and despondent girlfriend: he gets his two friends to help dope her up and gang bang her and take compromising pictures which he can use to blackmail her with later if she does not chill out. Of course I am jumping the gun a bit here as this is not revealed until the end of the movie but it really doesn’t matter. You can see it coming with its headlights on bright.

Later his friends get what is coming to them by sexy, brooding ghost girl Megumi. Adam (John Hensley) gets his eyeball gouged out through his camera while shooting a cowgirl in her underwear and Bruno (David Denmen) comes running out of bedroom in his underwear and jumps off the balcony. Benjamin reveals the affair part of his history but leaves off the date rape drug gang bang blackmail session. Maybe if he had just been honest with Jane form the start? After they go to Megumi’s apartment and find her in a mummified state following her suicide by poisoning they figure the matter is settled and her spirit is at rest. Of course this is not the case and just like The Grudge 2 the spirit follows them back to the sates for a final confrontation. As it turns out the spirit all along has been trying to help Jane, to warn her (which is why the ghost jumped out in front her speeding car and caused it to veer into a tree the movie’s start we realize now). Jane becomes aware of the truth and leaves Benjamin whining and begging for a second chance. He is left alone with the spirit which he tries to burn off his back, where she has been all along, causing him back and neck trouble, with some photography lights. He winds up in an institution with Megumi’s ghost slouched over his back.

I did not hate this movie at all but there is nothing original here in my book. The acting and direction is good. The story is weak in the sense is the same old Asian ghost plot we have seen a million times before and will continue to see again and again. And giving the fact this low budget film ($8 million) pulled in almost $44 million in the three months following its release I would expect a sequel if not a franchise soon. I doubt I will check out the Thai since I basically hate most all modern (mind you I said modern) Asian cinema. I may give it a try if I see the DVD but will not seek it out.

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