A FilmExposed Film Review
Dirs: Parkpoom Wongpoom and Banjong Pisanthankun, 2007, Thailand, 92mins, Thai with subtitles
Cast: Ananda Everingham, Natthaweeranuch Thongmee, Achita Sikamana
The Thai horror film, Shutter, doesn’t quite work. It has enough of the right ingredients – strong production values, decent performances, a startling moment or two, and revenge from beyond the grave – but it tries to fit in too much. There are too many disparate elements, and the lack of focus punctures the effort to build tension.
The film starts with a suitably happy scene: a send-off for one of a group of male friends, who is getting married. But on the journey home, one of the group, Tun (Everingham), and his girlfriend, Jane (Thongmee), hit a girl with their car. Instead of checking is she okay, panicked, they drive off. Over the following days, strange light and shadowy forms start to appear in the photographs Tun takes, and as Tun and Jane investigate the girl they seem to have fatally injured, the spiritual disturbances increase and intensify, and the plot thickens…
Unfortunately, the plot thickens rather too much. In an effort to keep it twisting and turning – and the audience guessing –, the writers seem to have thrown in every idea that occurred to them, including the half-formed ones. Where a little discretion might have delivered a good film, and with no consistency, no theme, and no thread to the horror in this horror film, sadly the result is muddled and unsatisfying. Essentially, the script needed another draft, to tighten it up. It’s a shame, because though the central idea of ghosts in photographs is not “very unique” – as directors Pisanthanakun and Wongpoom claim – it is a good basis for a film. It’s just that they drift off the point. There’s one lovely moment when Tun finds the ghostly image of a girl’s side-profile in one of his pictures, and peers at it: suddenly, with a quick cut, the face has turned to look at him. It’s jolting, and the idea deserves development. But the trope is used and prematurely discarded.
Of course, they might just have gotten away with these structural problems if the ideas were fresh, but to make matters worse, Shutter has borrowed none too subtly and all too liberally from Hideo Nakata’s Ringu (1998) and M. Night Shyamalan’s The Sixth Sense (1999), among others. It’s all there: the undead girl with long black hair covering her face, unexpected figures suddenly passing across the screen, a shock in the shower scene, backstory revelation after backstory revelation, and the twist at the end that attempts to make us re-evaluate the whole film, complete with brief reprise of the scenes we now have a new understanding of. It’s like being haunted by a ghost who’s watched too many horror films. Shutter is slickly shot, and looks good, but the unoriginality and looseness bogs it down. Also, there’s the fact that Tun is a Thai Orlando Bloom. But that’s about the scariest thing in it.