August 4, 2008
When Hollywood first started remaking Asian horror films, A-list actresses like Naomi Watts and Jennifer Connelly starred in them. Over time, as the public’s fascination with them waned, not so high-profile actresses like Amber Tamblyn and Kristen Bell starred in these quickie adaptations. You know that this trend has exhausted itself when Joshua Jackson – formerly of teen soap opera Dawson’s Creek – is starring in the latest remake. Shutter (2008) is a reworking of the 2004 Thai film of the same name and was predictably blasted by critics while performing modestly at the box office.
Benjamin Shaw (Jackson) and his new wife Jane (Taylor) move from New York City to Tokyo where he has a new job as a photographer. They notice mysterious lights in their honeymoon photographs. His assistant takes them to her boyfriend who is some kind of expert in the supernatural and he tells Ben and Jane that the lights are in fact spirits. It soon becomes apparent that they are being stalked by a mysterious presence. Could it be the Japanese girl Jane swears they hit with their car late one night? However, no body was found, which begs the question, is she a ghost?
As with so many Asian horror films, Ben and Jane are being terrorized by a vengeful ghost – one with links to Ben’s past. Unlike the original, the remake feels the need to make Ben unlikeable almost right from the get-go. Or, at least that’s how Joshua Jackson plays him. And so, our sympathy lands completely on Jane. What made the original so interesting is that we start out liking the male protagonist and it is only until the last third of the film, when his dark secret is revealed, that we lose respect for him. Of course, this was due in large part to the actor playing him.
Because of the Puritanical attitudes in the United States, the remake plays its hand way too early and Ben is unsympathetic. As a result, we don’t care about what happens to him. Maybe this was the filmmakers’ intentions so that all of our sympathies lie with Jane. The direction is fine if not unremarkable and the scares aren’t really all that terrifying. This is paint-by-numbers filmmaking at its blandest.
There is an audio commentary by production executive Alex Sundell, screenwriter Luke Dawson and actress Rachael Taylor. Dawson doesn’t contribute all that much while Taylor comes across as the most genial of the bunch. Sundell is fine but sometimes she sometimes sounds like she’s reading from notes. They talk about shooting in Japan and the differences between the Thai version and this one.
There are 11 alternated and deleted scenes that are nothing really all that special. There is alternate ending which only tweaks it ever so slightly which makes one wonder what was the point?
“A Ghost in the Lens” is a collection of interviews done with the cast and crew in black and white while clips from the film are in colour. This is pretty standard promotional featurette stuff.
“A Cultural Divide: Shooting in Japan” is probably the most fascinating extra as it covers the challenges of shooting in Japan for the American cast and crew members. Joshua Jackson comes across as a pretty humble, amiable guy in this featurette.
“The Director: Masayuki Ochiai” is a profile of the film’s director who talks about the J-Horror genre and spirit photography. He also touches briefly upon what drew him to the project and his thoughts on the original film.
“A Conversation with Luke Dawson” is an interview with the screenwriter. He also talks about the origins of the film and how it differs from the original.
“A History of Spirit Photography” examines this phenomenon and traces its roots, albeit briefly.
Finally, there is “Create Your Own Phantom Photo”, an instructional featurette that shows how you can create fake spirit photography on your personal computer.