I think I could forgive the endless remaking J-horror flicks if any of them were made decently. Genre fans keep telling me how “this movie” is so good and the remake has a lot of potential. Few of them live up to that potential. Even with decent acting and an interesting, if not overdone, concept, Shutter is another remake that fails to live up to what I’ve heard about the original, and has a good chance of leaving the audience yawning throughout.
As with most of these remakes, Shutter tells the story of a haunting. In this case the haunted are Ben and Jane Shaw, a recently married couple who make the move to Tokyo immediately following their wedding ceremony to pursue a photography job for Ben. On the way, Jane accidentally runs over a young girl, although Ben and the authorities deny the event happened. Jane isn’t so certain, and when she starts seeing the girl pop up in other places, Jane is convinced she’s being haunted because of her accident.
The title of the movie comes from the premise that the haunting figure initially appears in photos as a glare or streak. These “spirit photos” are coveted among the Japanese (or so the movie tells us), with magazines devoted to them to the point of faking images. Jane first realizes the spirit of the young girl is following them when their honeymoon photos have the traits of the spirit photos, followed by the images her husband takes through his job. It’s when Jane gets pictures from before the couple comes to Tokyo that she realizes that she’s not linked to the haunting figure the way she thought. It’s all irrelevant, however, because the young girl’s spirit isn’t limited to being seen through the shutter of a camera when it’s inconvenient for the movie’s story, eventually allowing her to be seen in the reflections of windows, doors, and finally just flat out seen from eye to eye.
Unlike a lot of the other horror remakes we’ve gotten, Shutter is not a thriller movie. In fact, with the exception of a few jump scares and a little bit of gratuitous gore thrown in to help raise the film’s rating, this is more of a mystery movie as Jane initially attempts to figure out what causes the defects in her pictures, and then what the girl’s spirit wants. It’s a refreshing change from some of the other remakes, which rely heavily on gore and freaky effects to spook their audience (there are none of those backwards-filmed jerky moving spirits here!).
The problem is that thanks to movies like White Noise and, frankly, this film’s own advertising, the audience knows what is causing problems with the pictures. It’s also clear from the interaction between Ben and some of his co-workers that they have something to hide. The result is that Jane takes over an hour to figure out what the audience knew before they stepped into the theater. There’s no real mystery to this mystery, and the lack of suspense robs the movie of its potential and results in a rather boring story. Moments that should have been twists were met with yawns and even elicited laughter from the general audience I saw the picture with.
To give the movie some credit, the problem is almost entirely with the story and pacing of the movie. The cast does a good job with what they have and leads Joshua Jackson and Rachael Taylor do their best to make the movie believable. Unfortunately, the credibility the acting gives the movie is drained over time by the slow progress of the story.
Shutter may be a bigger disappointment than movies like The Eye or The Grudge that try to horrify and scare the audience more than hold them in suspense. At least with those movies there is some visual candy to help draw the viewer in. Here there’s a ton more potential as far as the concept of the story goes, but a weak execution and a plodding pace results in a boring film that never even comes close to tapping the promise of what it could bel. I’d almost rather watch gruesome yet empty gore-fests that succeed in being what they strive to be than a movie that fails to live up to its own potential.