Projections - Movie Reviews
With Jim Sabatini


Shutter

Shutter
Starring:
Joshua Jackson, Rachael Taylor, Megumi Okina, David Denman and John Hensley


Rated: PG-13 for terror, disturbing images, sexual content and language
Reviewed by: Jim  
Release date: March 21, 2008 Released by: Twentieth Century Fox

Ridiculous and dreary, rather than surprising and frightful, Shutter tries to make a case for "the Polaroid not lying".

This horror picture, starring Joshua Jackson and Rachael Taylor, seems lost in translation of its 2004 Thai predecessor.

Set in Tokyo and its rural areas, the early part has a sunnier look to it, what with Jackson's Ben and Taylor's pretty Jane, honeymooning in Japan. Ben has a photographer's eye, having worked in the densely populated city, now retained for an upcoming fashion shoot.

On a rainy road to Tokyo they apparently hit a young Japanese woman (Megumi Okina), seen only at the time by Jane. And, the authorities uncover no evidence of what Jane thought happened. Ben tries to get on with his work as Jane (now certified as a sixth grade English teacher) is free to sate her cultural curiosity.

Over time, the notion of "spirit photography" (apparently well documented in the Orient) begins to reveal itself from the newlywed's honeymoon shots and in Ben's work. And, Jane has someone take a look at the images that start to suggest a paranormal stalking as the faded out elements start to form in other ways.

It takes a while for Ben to come clean to Jane about his involvement with the wistful woman, that includes his professional pals Bruno (David Denman) and Adam (John Hensley). So, the filmmakers, especially director Masayuki Ochiai, do their best to stage scary moments, as the idea of vengeance goes beyond flying tarp and dimly lit hallways.

But, Shutter develops a teal-ish hue in order to evoke a deeper ominous tone, but it is far less than The Ring or The Grudge or even their follow-ups, nearing the banality of something like The Messengers or An American Haunting. Ben and Jane get a tip on this mysterious woman and her potential whereabout, but even the score hardly invites suspense.

The ghostly effects become more ghastly as Ben feels the consequences of his "shooting" of the now stringy coiffed spook, like an albatross. There's that typical montage near the end to remind the viewer of how big a pain a spirit can be. Before, though, the onlooker captivated by this eastern ghost story with spiritual insinuations might enjoy the impact of scenes with Bruno and Adam with at least the decency to cut away from what would have been really lurid.

Here's a case of another miscalculation of the inability to credibly manifest chills rather than meandering without hardly giving reason to shudder. And, the glumness extends to the attractive leads, with Jackson and Taylor not able to convince that their characters aren't more than a little crazy or wound up. The final disclosure becomes more risible and an afterthought that one might think there was a grudge against another one of these movies.

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