It occurs to me I should be terrified for my mother. After all, if I'm to believe what Hollywood is telling me, Japan is overflowing with angry spirits that seem to be particularly angry with Americans. If you used to be a teen drama TV star - Sarah Michelle Gellar, Joshua Jackson - then you are just asking for trouble. My mother, to the best of my knowledge, was never a TV star, but she is American and in Japan.
On the other hand, the endless stream of Asian horror film remakes also suggests that the spirits are angry for very good reasons; they've been very horribly wronged at some point by whoever they're now tormenting (so Mom, I think you're safe). While the plot details vary, what drives films like "Shutter" forward is piecing together what the hell these spirits want. That, and the cheap make-you-jump-and-or-scream-with-fright moments. "Shutter" doesn't really fail horribly or excel in either element.
What "Shutter" does do well is it wastes little time introducing the angry spirit. A young, newly wed American couple (Jackson and Rachael Taylor) move to Japan for his job as a photographer. They're not in the country more than a few hours before they are in a car wreck in the middle of the night on a lonely back road. Why does the young wife crash the car? Because she has to swerve to miss the spirit girl in the middle of the road of course!
And with that, the ghostly encounters begin. The wife, jobless and alone while her husband's at work, delves into the paranormal first. Jackson is more reluctant, although it's apparent he's hiding something. A history with this spirit? It's hard to tell. That, of course, is the point. We aren't supposed to entirely trust him. Once Jackson's history with this spirit is finally revealed, it's very understandable that she is so upset with him. Revealing much more would be playing spoiler. So, it's at least mildly interesting figuring everything out.
The fright factor? Keep in mind it's PG-13, so the gore and blood is absent. Instead, director Masayuki Ochiai tries to scare moviegoers the same way M. Night Shyamalan did with "The Sixth Sense." Things are supposed to be eerie, creepy, and thus frightening. I counted only a handful of these moments, topped by a scene where Jackson is sitting in a chair and ... turns around really suddenly!!! It's more effective on screen than that sentence indicates, I promise. Still, fair warning. Unless you're a scaredy cat (like me) or under the age of 12, you're not going to find "Shutter" in any way frightening.
My biggest gripe with "Shutter" is actually kind of random. The big twist - finding out what Jackson did to anger this spirit - is just plain out of place in an otherwise harmless PG-13 flick. Other than that, there isn't much to get worked up about.
So, what are you left with, then? The story's OK. It's not any worse than the other remakes of its ilk. The acting is fine, and really, who doesn't get some twisted joy out of watching "Dawson's Creek" alumni get tormented? The fright factor is decent as long as you're about as brave as my puppy when she hears fireworks. It's very much a mixed bag. If you think of these Asian horror film remakes like a cheap buffet, "Shutter" fits right in. It's mediocre from start to finish, and not really memorable in any way.
Read Carson's movie blog at www.juneaublogger.com/movies.
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