March 23, 2008

Shutter: Sometimes the Dead Should Just Stay Buried

Shutter is a movie that asks an important question — how many times can filmmakers try to remake The Ring before audiences get tired of seeing the same imagery and stop going to Asian-flavored horror flicks? And the answer is one time fewer than it took for Shutter to get made. This film is bad enough, derivative enough, and insulting to the intelligence of its audience enough that it could well become the stake driven through the heart of Samara-clones that finally keeps them pinned in their coffins where they belong.

Shutter features the black-and-white (much like Samara) ghost of a dishonored Japanese suicide named Megumi who may be the most boring, most prosaic revenant spirit ever to appear in a horror film. She has perfectly coiffed hair and wears a spotless floral print dress and isn't very scary at all. Just as The Ring's Samara could come crawling out of a television set, Megumi resides in photographs. In fact, one of the film's greatest weaknesses is a long-winded attempt at explaining spirit photography. One of the things that made The Ring interesting is that it didn't bore the audience with an explanation of how Samara came to reside in the airwaves; that much was left to the imagination. It was just the way things were. In Shutter, we get Seiko, a character whose sole purpose in the film is to act as a ham-handed plot device. She just so happens to have a boyfriend who publishes a magazine about spirit photography, you see, which provides the opportunity for the wife of haunting-target Benjamin Shaw to get a lecture on the subject. When Seiko announced that her boyfriend was an expert in the field at the screening I attended I heard several audience members — many of whom were teenagers, thanks to the film's PG-13 rating — laugh out loud. What a fortunate coincidence!

Megumi just isn't much of a threat to the world at large. In fact, she's arguably not even malicious. She wants revenge and, through the course of the film, takes it upon the three men who wronged her. She doesn't do that in very interesting ways, either. Two of the three men die in a most predictable manner. In the meanwhile, Megumi goes out of her way to warn Jane Shaw about husband Benjamin's true nature. She's not all bad, and in this context that makes her all the more unthreatening. Why should anyone be afraid of her? I don't think anyone in the audience was.

In a particularly intelligence-bruising moment of the film (one among several, but I'll stick to the most egregious), we learn that Megumi has been haunting Ben Shaw for a long time. In fact, she's been riding around on his shoulders. When he gets weighed at a doctor's office, in fact, he turns out to weigh more than 280 pounds. You would think he might have noticed this on his own. Wouldn't most anybody realize that they were carrying around an extra 100 pounds or so? Not this character. The audience groaned audibly when this fact was revealed. How stupid are we horror fans taken for, anyhow? I'm all for the suspension of disbelief, but it's up to the director of a film to provide the means for that to happen; he couldn't have just expected the audience to believe anything he wanted to throw at them, could he? It felt like he did, and it felt like it didn't work at all. Of course, since Megumi apparently has mass and can interact with physical objects, I see some excellent satire potential here. She must bump her head into a lot of door frames while riding on a man's shoulders, after all. I doubt that Shutter will ever find a place in popular conscience that would be rewarded with a mention in Scary Movie 12, though. Everything about it is much too forgettable, and I don't expect that most people will remember it after its inevitable two-week run in the cinemas.

With its contrived story, flat acting, attempts at shot-for-shot recreations of scenes from The Ring, unintelligent screenplay and predictable climax, Shutter may elicit one or two "Ewwwww gross" responses from younger audience member, but there's not a spine tingling moment in this one. It's far more product than it is film. If you must see it (and I can't think of one thing that makes this snorer a must-see film), wait until it comes out on DVD. It simply isn't worth the price of admission, not even for a matinee.

I usually include some images with my horror movie reviews, but none are available of the boring ghost from Shutter. Perhaps the directors realized how dull this one was. There is one photo at IMdB which I can't and won't bother trying to reproduce here. That's pretty much as scary as Megumi gets, though.

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