Thursday, June 26, 2014

Shutter (2004) : A Fine Slice Of Asian Horror

I'm very into foreign horror at the moment, and this 2004 Thai film directed by Banjong Pisanthanakun and Parkpoom Wongpoom is one of my favorites!  Forget the remake from 2008 with Pacey Joshua Jackson....this is the real deal and packs a punch in the fright department. 

Professional photographer Tun (Ananda Everingham, the Thai version of Orlando Bloom in the looks department) and his girlfriend Jane ((Natthaweeranuch Thongmee) are driving home after a night of partying with friends.  Jane's behind the wheel and the two lovers are flirting with the intention of a love fest once they get home.  Suddenly a woman appears out of nowhere on the road and they slam into her, sending her up over the roof and onto the pavement as they wreck the car into a road sign.

After both Tun and Jane have a momentary loss of consciousness, they come to and glance around, first checking to see if the other is okay, and then apprehensively peeking behind them to the unfortunate victim. Jane turns to open her door to check on the young woman but Tun grabs her arm, stopping her.  They then make the worst decision of their lives.  Tun screams for her to drive away, and she quickly does just that.  

[Okay, STOP.  It really should be painfully obvious that making that particular decision never bodes well in the course of a horror movie.  We've seen it all before, in films like I Know What You Did Last Summer and Creepshow 2 - NEVER (EVER!) HIT AND RUN!! Because you know you're in for it.  Regardless, Tun and Jane apparently don't watch horror films and they slam the young woman and bolt.]

Soon after, Tun begins to experience strange occurrences.  Apparitions in photographs, disembodied voices, friends that commit suicide without reason.  He even sees (or thinks he sees) a dark haired woman emerging from the sink in his darkroom.  Jane begins to suspect that he is being haunted by the ghost of the woman they hit with the car, but Tun tries to convince himself the events are not supernatural.  He also begins to have severe neck pain, but blames this on the accident. 

For reasons not clear, Jane is not equally as haunted. Perhaps because she initially wanted to help the crash victim, and is wracked with guilt about what they had done.  But it is Tun who is relentlessly pursued by the dark haired ghost. Jane decides to look into the origin of the photographs with the strange figure in them and discovers that in college, Tun had a girlfriend that he kept secret from his friends because they made fun of her for being quiet and very shy. They had a very bad breakup and after Jane draws this whole story out of Tun and they both finally are convinced that this ex-girlfriend, Natre (Achita Sikamana), is holding one hell of a grudge against Tun.   Investigating, they soon turn to a local photography shop owner and discover there is more to spirit photography than meets the eye. 

When some unfortunate secrets are eventually revealed, the film drives off in a whole other direction than what you originally thought. Just when you thought you knew the whole story - BAM!  They slam you with the truth, and believe me, the truth hurts.  Literally.

In Asian horror, there are a few key components that are always dredged up.  The first and most important is there is always one helluva curse.  Add to that a ghost with long dark hair and a penchant for horrible revenge and you've got yourself a movie. Shutter is wrought with tension and at times the visuals (as they so often are in Asian horror) are terrifying and tend to last long after the final reel. 

So while it may seem that Shutter is just another formulaic "J-Horror" flick you've already seen, it's actually a really good take on the vengeful ghost story - and there are some excellent creepy scenes that had me thinking twice about heading to bed the dark. 

Which should be reason enough to check out this eerie and unsettling film.


Annie Riordan said...

I cannot recommend this movie enough. SO SO superior to the weaksauce American remake.

Christine Hadden said...

Agreed! I'd marry this film if I could!