Opening Friday, March 21st
Joshua Jackson as Benjamin Shaw
Rachael Taylor as Jane Shaw
Megumi Okina as Megumi Tanaka
David Denman as Bruno
John Hensley as Adam
Maya Hazen as Seiko
Directed by Masayuki Ochiai
Asian horror, re-processed and re-packaged for American audiences, is batting 0- 3 this year. One Missed Call did little to ignite my excitement for the The Eye; and while that Jessica Alba-starring retread was harmless (I was never a fan of the original) but hardly good, imagine the sheer anticipation – bursting like perspiration on my brow with a tingling of arousal in my loins – I held for Shutter, directed by Masayuki Ochiai who previously helmed the sticky, colorful virus-a-thon Infection. To cut to the chase: I don’t wish cancer up on this film (like I do its predecessors), but Shutter is rank, derivative, predictable tripe.
To give you an idea of what level of quality Shutter – scripted by Luke Dawson – works on, allow me to describe a non-spoilery scene that drew unanimous guffaws from the press screening I attended. Newlywed Jane Shaw (played by Rachael Taylor of See No Evil and Transformers) is shuffling through a batch of recently developed photographs. She’s puzzled by the wispy white streaks that have invaded nearly every shot. At this, a friend peers over her shoulder and states Jane has a case of “spirit photography” in her hands. “How do you know?” Jane asks to which her friend answers something to the effect like, “Oh, because my friend works at a spirit photography magazine…”
Holy bananas, how did a dialogue exchange like that slip through?
No clue, because until this moment, Shutter was cruising along as mildly entertaining. Sure, you could turn a drinking game into every time you saw Jane or her husband, Ben (Joshua Jackson), bust out a camera – or if you saw one lingering somewhere within the frame. And the fears of infidelity simmering just beneath the surface of the plot, a source of mounting discomfort for Jane, were engaging enough to carry me along. But then this film is sucker-punched by stupidity that it isn’t able to recover from.
Let’s back up. The story begins with Ben and Jane, a rabidly in love, horny couple – recently married – who move to Tokyo. On their honeymoon, and driving along a remote country road, Jane believes she has accidentally hit a woman, but no body is discovered to support her claim. Haunted by this, the pair move on to the city where Ben is committed to a big fashion shoot. Shortly after settling in, Jane begins to notice the aforementioned phenomenon of spirit photography pervading Ben’s work, not to mention their own private pics. She suspects it’s the dastardly work of a ghost…of the woman she supposedly hit! Dah-dah-dum! Ben is quick to dismiss the haunting, naturally. Still, Jane efforts to find the cause behind it all with a little supernatural help. You see, the ghost isn’t haunting Jane, the helpful spook is directing her to clues. To what end? I hear you beg. Well, I’m not gonna tell you.
If you’ve seen The Ring, Dark Water, One Missed Call and The Grudge you should know how the rest of this festering drama plays out. Dark-haired, pasty white ghost frustrated by the afterlife, needs someone to find its fleshy, rotting remains, yada-yada-yada…
This lack of imagination infects every aspect of the film. And sadly, Ochiai does little to pull it out of the mire and tap the thick atmosphere he brought to Infection. Even the kills ring stale as Shutter‘s enraged specter lashes out at Ben’s two American chums Bruno and Adam (David Denman and John Hensley, respectively). There’s a “death by ocular trauma” with the assistance of a camera that, again, elicits fits of laughter. Composer Nathan Barr attempts to lend some gravity to the scenario, echoing moody themes of Hans Zimmer’s Ring score but all it does is recall a time when Asian frights felt fresh…and new and how quickly our fascination with them dissipated.
One more down, one more remake to go… Paramount releases A Tale of Two Sisters. When will it end?