“Shutter” is a powerful horror movie that’s actually better than it sounds. What makes it great is the story: The movie doesn’t employ any familiar formulas, so the contents unfold with imagination and thought. It has a kind of grace and style that makes the plot dreamlike and believable at the same time, like the writing of Ray Bradbury or Stephen King.
It’s based on an Asian movie that went straight to DVD in America, but don’t get the idea that it’s some kind of half-baked retread – it’s got nothing in common with all those other remakes we’ve all had quite enough of.
Many horror films exist in a closed system of monsters and mystery: That’s fine, but this movie avoids being trapped in one dimension. It’s like “Don’t Look Now” or “The Omen,” which put pieces of two worlds – one real, one fictional – together to make an absurd premise seem real.
The ads say it was made by the “Executive Producers of ‘The Grudge’ and ‘The Ring,’” which kind of makes sense if you think about it. “Shutter” works with realistic material to develop an illusion, just like the first two movies. It involves two young newlyweds named Ben (Joshua Jackson) and Jane (Rachael Taylor), who visit Japan on their honeymoon. As they drive through the woods, they hit a woman and crash in a ditch, unconscious. When they wake up, Ben and Jane go back to take a look. Something’s missing: Where’s the body? Was anybody there in the first place? Ben thinks it was just his imagination. Jane’s not so certain.
But life goes on. Ben spends most of his time taking commercial snapshots for his new job. Then something weird happens – Ben observes a pale ray of light in every shot he takes. Jane thinks it’s some kind of signal. She may be right.
The movie works, but it’s far from perfect. Screenwriter Luke Dawson’s dialogue is basic and plain: It requires the actors to do all the heavy lifting, which isn’t as easy as it looks. Some of the dialogue is even laughable, like when Ben rubs his neck and says “I think I tweaked something back there” after walking away from the crash that could’ve killed him. There’s another part where Ben and Jane discuss what’ll happen when they arrive somewhere. (Not necessary – just go.)
The actors know what they’re doing, though – they penetrate through the awkwardness of the screenplay. Look for John Hensley as a man whose eyeball explodes in his head. He’s had worse: You might remember him from another horror movie, “Teeth,” in which he loses a completely different organ…the one men are least willing to part with.
While “Shutter” is an entertaining horror romp, it’s way too close to the dozen other Japanese horror remakes over the past five years that feature the same old story- guy/girl makes mistake in relationship and attractive, but innocent looking Asian woman comes back from the dead to ruin their seemingly-great new lives, before a hunt of sorts occurs and they send the spirit back to the depths of hell.
Lather, rinse, repeat, where’s the Nyquil?
Jackson doesn’t do a bad job in the film and neither does his sexy co-star, but in the end, the film’s story isn’t captivating enough to keep you in your seat.
Much like the Latin music fad of the late 90s, the Japanese-inspired horror flick remake fad is slowly running its course as well.
-Patrick Hickey Jr.