Shutter (2008)


Spend just a few years focused on the Hollywood trends and you'll see how something as unmistakably terrible as Shutter gets produced. It's not brain surgery, trust me: Someone got the half-smart idea to turn Ringu (The Ring) and Ju-On (The Grudge) into American-ized horror flicks, both of 'em made big money, and boom: The floodgates were open. Ever since those two movies hit the scene, we've been tortured by ceaseless trickle of seriously lame-ass retreads.

Half-decent Asian thrillers were snapped up like so many Marvel characters. Scan back through the most terrible horror movies of the last few years and you'll find a lot of evidence to support my (simple) theory. Every few months, another one shows up: Pulse, The Eye, One Missed Call, Dark Water (OK, I liked that one), The Ring 2, The Grudge 2, The Messengers, etc., etc. Flicks "inspired" by some so-so Asian horror tales that probably weren't all that worthy of the remake treatment in the first place. But then again ... The Ring and The Grudge made SO MUCH money that logic, sense and creativity were forced to take a back-seat to simple fiscal issues.

Which brings us to this weekend's flaccid little flop: Shutter. Based on a Thai thriller about a ghostly presence that can be seen only through photographs, Shutter jettisons the original film's (slightly) effective moments, carbon-copies a few others, and basically trudges through the 'campfire story boring' material with a generous dose of yawns, fake scares, eye-rolling silliness, and some really vacant performances. Like most PG-13 horror flicks, Shutter is not made for passionate fans of the dark genre; it's more of an airy time-waster for young'ens who just want to go see a scary movie -- as long as it's not actually scary. And I'm not kidding about that. My biggest complaint, among many, is that Shutter is not even remotely effective. Nor creepy or chilling or any other worthwhile synonym for "scary." I've seen kitty litter commercials that are infinitely scarier than Shutter. It offers a flat story, a woeful series of egregiously telegraphed "jolts," and a storytelling style best described as ... simply lame.

Here's your plot: A newlywed American couple have moved to Tokyo for hubby's swanky photography career. While driving through the countryside one night, they plow over a young woman, smash into a tree, and suffer some conveniently fast-healing injuries. But the girl is nowhere to be found! Scary! Then we move in to the main plot: All of hubby's photos are marred by some weird streaks of light -- and you guessed it, those streaks are (of course) unhappy spirits from beyond the grave. With that skimpy groundwork laid down, we begin a 70-minute jaunt through Bored City, Tokyo Division. Hubby keeps taking pictures of hot models and suffering from demonic whiplash while wifey wanders around Tokyo, learns a few things from a "spirit photographer" (I kid you not), and basically starts piecing things together about the girl they (apparently didn't) hit on the road that night.

If any of this stuff sounds even remotely interesting to you, then I highly recommend that you rent the original Thai flick and just leave it at that. Director Masayuki Ochiai (he did the surprisingly creepy Infection a few years back) apes the original film's best sequences as best he can, but again, it's all just trace-work. All the heavy lifting has been done already, so this limp and lazy American version doesn't really HAVE to break much of a sweat. Lead actors Joshua Jackson and Rachael Taylor come off just as bland and unconvincing as the screenplay they're blathering from, supporting players David Denman and John Hensley are given virtually nothing to do, and -- can I just say this for the last time and be done with it? -- the vision of a wet, stringy-haired, young Asian woman in a white dress cowering in a corner / closet / coffin ... it's just not scary anymore. It practically never was.

At this point I can't tell if the "classic horror" remake is more or less unwelcome than the quickie "Asian horror" remake, but if I could echo one oft-repeated opinion ... the original Shutter is less than five years old. Which means that this version was made strictly for financial reasons, and not because some creative genius thought they could improve upon the source material. And when a movie's genesis is "What Asian flick can we buy, remake, and shove into the marketplace for our mid-March desperation shot?" -- the result is very rarely going to be a good film. The first Shutter is hardly a modern classic -- except maybe if you compare it to this listless piece of cinematic commerce.