Made in 2004, Shutter is another Thai entry into the popular Asian horror subgenre and comes replete with many of the genre conventions (clichés?) established in films like The Ring. The story is a little different, though, and this movie has a lot more depth than many of the more lacklustre Ring spinoffs we’ve been flooded with over the last couple of years.
Our tale begins with a group of friends at a table drinking, gathered together after a wedding. One of them is Tun, a photographer, sitting alongside his girlfriend, Jane. On their way back home (with Jane driving), they have a car accident — slamming into a girl who wanders blindly in front of the car, then into a sign by the roadside. Seeing the body lying behind them, Tun, gripped by panic, urges Jane to just drive on… and she does.
Though obviously shaken, they go back to life as normal, Tun taking photos of graduations at college and doing studio sessions with newlyweds. When he gets the prints, however, there’s something wrong with them — many of them have odd shadows and distortions on them. One photo shows the suggestion of a human face, just behind the shoulder of one of the photo’s subjects. Tun’s convinced it’s a problem with his camera (since these distortions are on the negatives as well). Meanwhile, both Tun and Jane are having vivid nightmares of the “eerie girl with long black hair emerging from a tank of developing fluid” variety. Visions and nightmares start to blur with reality as the two try to come to terms with past events.
Shutter is well-shot with some excellent camerawork here and there, particularly given the theme of photography and the difference between images and the reality they represent. There are a lot of dark, claustrophobic interior scenes and there’s a palpably menacing atmosphere to them, particularly later in the film when the pace picks up a little. Though it owes a lot to Ring, there are other films it could be compared to — the way the film unfolds reminded me quite a bit of Park Chan-Wook’s Old Boy and M. Night Shyamalan’s The Sixth Sense. Some of the classical horror clichés are overplayed a bit — does every door in Bangkok creak ominously? — but it’s forgiveable given how good the rest of the film is. Both lead actors put in good performances and Achita Sikamana is excellent as Natre, a striking-looking girl from Tun’s past. She manages to convey a great deal of emotion and character with very few lines (and predominately in silent flashbacks).
Overall I enjoyed Shutter a lot, and it’s fantastic to see relatively small film industries like Thailand’s producing films this good. Definitely worth seeing for people who’ve enjoyed the J-Horror phenomenon, and as good as or better than any of the Hollywood remakes we’ve been subjected to recently!