Reviewed by: Jennie Kermode

Shutter is a remake of a rather better Thai film. It has a ghost in it. The ghost is young and female and has long hair. If you've seen anything like this before, you'll know almost exactly what to expect. To its credit, the film has a bit more plot than most of its ilk, and has retained its superbly dark ending, but for the most part it's horror-by-numbers, not so different from wearing a blindfold and having a friend burst crisp packets behind one's head at random intervals.

Ben and Jane are a prosperous, well-groomed all-American couple celebrating the start of their married life. Just why they married is the film's greatest mystery, as they don't seem to know anything about each other; this isn't helped by lacklustre performances from the two leads. The original film featured a recently graduated photographer taking some snaps for a friend, so in this film Ben is a top fashion photographer, which is odd, as he seems to know nothing about photo editing, or about fashion - the OTT kimonos which presumably help this look exotic to Americans have little to do with current Japanese trends. When relocating to Tokyo, the couple have an accident in the road - Jane swears she hit a girl, but Ben says she's imagining it. Afterwards, blurry images start to appear on his pictures, and then things take a turn for the worse.

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Ask any actual photographer about 'spirit photos' and you'll likely be subjected to a screaming fit. What people assume is the presence of the supernatural is usually very clearly the result of well-known optical effects. The photographers in this film, however, are strangely tolerant, and Jane, investigating, is shown some images which really scare her. Are she and Ben being followed by a spirit 'attached to the flesh'? If so, why has it chosen them? Is there something else going on which she doesn't know about?

Shutter is smoothly and effectively directed, yet everything is always where one most expects it, rather undermining any real sense of fear. What starts of as a creepy soundtrack quickly becomes intrusive and then just annoying. And worst of all, there are moments when it's hard not to laugh, especially at Joshua Jackson blaring out his lines as if he were in a school play. This is rather a shame because there is, underlying this, a melancholy romantic tale with the potential to be quite affecting. To work, the film has to show us that real horror is a complex thing - that there's something just as disturbing about Ben and his friends' attitude to women as about the supernatural. The problem is that every character is intensely self-centered, and the film countenances no awareness of the wider world, so there's no context for this. It's also damn hard to care.

If you want to see a horror film in the cinema and Shutter is the only thing showing, you'll find it be passable fun. In any other context, it's just another testament to Hollywood's folly in churning out weak copies of films whose popularity it doesn't understand.

Reviewed on: 13 May 2008
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After a car accident, an American couple working in Japan suspect they are being haunted - but why?
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Director: Masayuki Ochiai

Writer: Luke Dawson

Starring: Joshua Jackson, Rachael Taylor, Megumi Okina, David Denman, John Hensley, Maya Hazen

Year: 2008

Runtime: 85 minutes

BBFC: 15 - Age Restricted

Country: US


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