"Shutter" dies away with a click

March 25, 2008, midnight | By Kevin Teng | 16 years, 2 months ago

Powerless eeriness fails to terrify

The realm of photography attempts to evoke emotions in its most artistic forms, many times becoming a time capsule of our culture. But when emotions take the form of spirits and ghosts in photographs and dreams, the end product is just a low-budget scary flick.

"Shutter," a horror movie by Japanese director Masayuki Ochiai, is slow-paced, soporific and trivial. Although the movie's executive producers also produced "The Grudge" and "The Ring," they failed to make it work again because the storyline was portrayed too artificially.

The general plot, almost entirely revealed in the last few minutes of the movie, has a good concept. After two newlyweds, Ben and Jane Shaw (Joshua Jackson and Rachael Taylor), get into a mysterious car accident, spirits start to appear in their photographs. The terrified newlyweds investigate the photos, which eventually lead to a somewhat interesting plot twist.

But problems arise when events leading up to the plot twist are not tied together, even though the subject matter has a very strong potential. Some good films can build suspense for most of the movie and then end by a decent plot twist; M. Night Shyamalan masters the technique with movies like "The Sixth Sense." Ochiai, on the other hand, fails miserably at creating the necessary foreshadowing to support the plot - the suspense is so bad that it's almost a sin to call it foreshadowing. The movie has a choppy plot flow that disrupts its ending, even though singular events have at least some suspense. And even though the conclusion itself is quite disturbing and meaningful, the order of events that leads up to the plot twist is so bad that the general significance of the film is slighted.

The cause of the choppiness does not seem to be directly related to its acting or cinematography, but rather its writing. Writer Luke Dawson simply could not tie together the many different endings of singular events to further develop the important plot twist. For example, Ben gets rattled by a spirit while developing photography on two different occasions; however, the events are loosely correlated and have no true purpose in the plot. When put together, scenes seem periodic and incomplete because there is little global meaning behind them.

Judged separately, the scenes are slightly scary. The actors look somewhat frightened during horror events, and the ascending music volume and tempo help to convey their terror. Ben and Jane sometimes look more annoyed than scared, but the creepiness of spirit Megumi Tanaka (Megumi Okina) helps to create a shudder or two. The traditionally dark lighting in some scenes contributes to the fright. In general though, individual scenes are boring and produce few emotions.

The quality of a movie comes from an evaluation of its totality, not its scenes. Unfortunately, the overall quality of this film shows that Ochiai has either misinterpreted American horror or lost it through translation.

"Shutter" is rated PG-13 for terror, disturbing images, sexual content and language. It is now playing everywhere.

Kevin Teng. There are some things in which people believe. Some people believe in other people. I believe in meatloaf. I believe that we all should have fun eating whatever meatloaf we want to eat. Sorry, that was "Harold and Kumar"-esque. Life is pretty good because I'm … More »

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