Several years ago, a film buff friend of mine made a statement that the most original and innovative horror movies only seem to be coming out of Japan. In fact, with the import of The Ring more than five years ago, the entire Asian culture seemed to be an unending well of great horror movies.
While Hollywood has remade oodles of these movies over the years, and while some have been quite good (e.g., The Ring and The Grudge), the well does seem to be going a bit dry.
The latest Asian-horror remake (and the third this year after One Missed Call and The Eye) is Shutter. Where One Missed Call was originally from Japan and The Eye was originally from China, Shutter is originally from Thailand (although curiously, it takes place in Japan… go figure).
This film has all the standard Asian horror elements. There’s a creepy Japanese ghost, lots of shadows, overdone anticipation and the muted color set design. This time, the main characters are a married couple named Ben and Jane (Joshua Jackson and Rachael Taylor) who are being haunted by a ghost that appears in photography. Jane seems to be the focus, and she believes in the ghost more than Ben does, but we get the feeling that Ben has something to hide in the matter.
If you’re a fan of Americanized Asian horror films, you will find more of the same with Shutter. It’s not terribly original, and the movie fumbles through several awkward flashbacks to tell a convoluted story. Perhaps it made more sense in the original film, but the movie ultimately unravels at the end with contrived plot points that are about as original as an episode of “Murder, She Wrote”.
I will admit that the biggest draw for me to see this movie was Rachael Taylor, who I affectionately refer to as the other hot girl from Transformers. This Australian beauty is quite fetching in the movie, although she does need to spend some time at the craft services table on her next film. While very striking, she’s disproving the old adage that you can’t be too thin.
Still, Taylor acts circles around the otherwise dull Joshua Jackson, who has never quite emerged from his Dawson’s Creek level of acting. And while his character is relevant to the story, I wish there was less of him and more of Taylor.
I’ve seen so many of these movies in the past few years that I don’t know what else I can say about them. Because they’ve become such a formula, perhaps I can just pull some comments from previous reviews that are relevant to this movie:
Dark Water: I’d already seen most of the film in the movies The Ring and The Ring Two.
One Missed Call: It’s as if Vanilla Ice wrote the script, sampling elements from The Ring and The Grudge with a dash of Pulse sprinkled in.
The Eye: There are some nice horror elements, but I really never saw anything that chilling.
The Ring Two: The plot is loose, and the characters are clueless.
The Grudge 2: these cheap tricks are used so much that they no longer scare anyone
At least now these movies have moved into low-budget horror rather than major releases like the sequels to The Ring and The Grudge. As far as the Asian horror remakes go, I’ve seen a lot worse. This beats the pants off One Missed Call. But then again, I’ve seen a lot better. Consider this movie to be almost as good as The Eye but with less of a coherent story.
The Upside: Rachael Taylor’s more interesting to watch than the tired Asian-style creepy effects.
The Downside: Been there, done that.
On the Side: Spirit photography is a real phenomenon. Check it out at http://www.prairieghosts.com/spiritphotos.html.