“Shutter”: a brief review (with spoilers)

| March 22, 2008

“Shutter”, which just opened on Friday, is an Americanized remake of a Thai horror film named “Shutter” (or whatever the equivalent is in Thai). It (the remake) stars Joshua Jackson (“Ben Shaw”) and Rachel Taylor (“Jane Shaw”) as a newlywed couple that moves from New York to Japan so that Ben can take a job as a professional photographer of Japanese fashion models. While driving (with Ben asleep) to their honeymoon cabin somewhere near Mt. Fuji, Jane hits — or think she hits — a young Japanese woman who suddenly appears in the road ahead. The car veers off the road and crashes, knocking out both Jane and Ben. When they wake up, there is no trace of the girl, even after the police arrive and search the area thoroughly. But strange streaks of light start showing up in Ben’s photographs, both personal and professional, while Jane starts hearing strange noises — and then thinks she sees the girl she hit outside a subway window while traveling from one stop to another. Jane is afraid that the ghost of the girl she hit has come back to haunt her. But the truth is more complicated than that….

I do have a few quibbles about the setting in Japan. (I’ve only been to Tokyo three times, but that’s enough to pick up on a few things at least.) All the individuals — who all live in Tokyo — have large houses/apartments. Ben and Jane’s apartment is explained as being a loft in a currently-being-renovated building; that’s somewhat plausible. But Bruno’s apartment and Adam’s house seem awfully, awfully large for being within Tokyo itself. (On the other hand, I have the same complaint about most movies and TV shows set in Manhattan.) A lot of the interior settings seem awfully dim, more dim than I remember Tokyo building interiors being. Also, Jane seems remarkable at ease using the Tokyo subway system and wandering through its streets, especially for someone who doesn’t appear to speak or read any Japanese. Finally — and I don’t want to give too much away — Ben and Jane are repeatedly involved with the police, yet the police don’t seem to regard them as persons of interest.

“Shutter” is actually not a bad film. Not great, and nowhere near the scary/creepy factor of, say, the original Japanese versions of “The Grudge” and “The Ring”. It has fewer “You idiot(s)!” moments than a lot of scary films (though it does have some; see after the jump) and has some genuine creepy/scary moments, plus a few unexpected developments. Sandra and I got to see it for free thanks to some movie ticket coupons being offered by our local Safeway for having bought a certain amount of frozen food — and that’s about right. There’s only one scene that I can think of that merits seeing the film in a real theater; frankly, you may be better off waiting for the film to come to DVD.


The biggest “You idiots!” moment comes after the young girl’s body has been found. Ben and Jane have been through quite a few horrific experiences by this point, yet what do they do? They check into a dimly(!) lit hotel and go to bed in a room with all the lights out. If I were them, at this point and until I left Japan, I would spend every night in a brightly-lit public place with lots of people around. In fact, I might simply do that for the next several weeks or months, regardless of where I was, until I was sure that the ghost was really gone.

The scene that most merits seeing this in a darkened theater is when Ben is working in his photography studio. The lights go out, the studio is pitch black — and then the large flash units start going off randomly, and Ben keeps catching glimpses of something in the brief moments of light. Unfortunately, the scene ends with the standard cliche — namely, Jane happens to come home and turn on the light.

The plot itself takes a few decent twists. Of course, it’s obvious early on that Jane didn’t hit and kill this girl, and that the real connection is with Ben. Ben finally ‘fesses up that he knew the girl — Megumi Tanaka (played by Megumi Okina) — during his previous stay in Japan and had a relationship with her. But Megumi got too obsessive, and Ben says that he had his friends Adam and Bruno take her aside and tell her to back off. What Jane discovers — only after things have been (apparently) resolved in Japan, and she and Ben are back in NYC — is that Ben actually had Adam and Bruno drug Megumi and then sexually use her while Ben took photos (as potential blackmail). Megumi ends up committing suicide out of shame, starting the haunting of Ben (and Adam and Bruno as well).

With that, Jane realizes that Megumi hasn’t been trying to harm or attack her — Megumi has been trying to warn Jane away from Ben. Jane, to her credit, leaves Ben for good within minutes of finding that out and confronting him with it. Ben — who has had a sore neck and upper back since the car accident near the start of the film — discovers (via photography) that Megumi has spent most of her time riding up on his neck and shoulders. He attempts to free himself by electrocuting his neck — but instead ends up in a mental institution in a near-catatonic state, sitting on the bed but hunched over. A chance reflection shows that Megumi is draped over his back — presumably forever.

As I said, wait for the DVD. ..bruce w..

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Category: Main, Movies, Reviews

About the Author ()

Webster is Principal and Founder at Bruce F. Webster & Associates, as well as an Adjunct Professor of Computer Science at Brigham Young University. He works with organizations to help them with troubled or failed information technology (IT) projects. He has also worked in several dozen legal cases as a consultant and as a testifying expert, both in the United States and Japan. He can be reached at bwebster@bfwa.com, or you can follow him on Twitter as @bfwebster.

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