Review: Films Set In Japan – Shutter (2008)

The horror movie genre is one that I’ve never been into so much but I have seen enough films to not be too scared as there is a limit to what can make you jump out of your skin. That was certainly the case here where I really was quite surprised at how tame the horror side of it all was. There is very little chance of one having any kind of nightmares after watching this one, that’s for sure! The premise was quite good but it really failed to deliver a story of too much depth like ‘The Ring‘ which is perhaps an unfair comparison as that set a much higher benchmark for Asian remakes.

Warning: Contains spoilers!

Now I should add here that I had no idea until after I’d watched ‘Shutter‘ that this was a remake of a Thai horror film so having not seen that I can’t compare it. This Masayuki Ochiai directed version doesn’t really inspire me to want to either! This version of the story follows newly weds Benjamin (Joshua Jackson) and Jane (Rachel Taylor) on a trip to Japan where the former has some photography work lined up in Tokyo. He speaks Japanese and has lived there before but she is the stereotypical fish out of water character.

It’s a cold night as she is driving the two of them to the city from their lakeside retreat on a deserted country road when the car suddenly hits a young woman who appears from nowhere. The car spins out of control and hits a tree resulting in them passing out but they are unable to find the body of the person they hit.

Continuing on to the capital city they begin their new life but Jane finds it difficult to get over the apparent accident. After some time where not much of interest really happens Ben notices some strange blurs in their personal photos taken at the lake in the foreground of the iconic and spiritual Mount Fuji.

When they start to appear in his work photos too Jane suspects the blurs are the spirit of the girl they ran over. They decide to visit an expert on such strange occurrences who says the blurs are probably “spirit image” and may be related to Ben’s past life. The mystery all starts to slowly unravel after that and that is as much of the storyline as I’ll reveal. This is a review after all and not a synopsis!

For Western audiences I think there is something quite scary about a pasty white female Japanese ghost with luscious black hair and a large amount of eye liner but the  Megumi character didn’t really follow that winning formula too closely. Maybe it’s a good thing that they didn’t go down that same route but I didn’t find her scary and just felt she was a bit bland. She was a timid girl though and certainly didn’t deserve what came her way. 

These films “set” in Japan reviews began over 12 years ago but this movie somehow totally bypassed me until a few years ago when an avid reader told me about it. I actually watched it then but could remember almost nothing about it before re-watching it recently for this feature. That ought to be enough evidence to tell you that it really is an underwhelming supernatural horror flick that fails to scare, surprise or startle at any point in the film. A bigger dose of imagination was much needed but that is something which applies to much of the genre these days I think!

There really aren’t too many highlights in this film other than the main reason I watched it which was just to see the Japanese settings. Locations include many of the staples of any film set in Tokyo so the likes of Shinjuku, Harajuku, Shibuya and Akihabara are nothing too new. The short running time was a big positive too as it just ensured I didn’t waste too much time trying to get into the very formulaic story. At a push, the twist ending could be considered quite favourable and did take me by surprise. I know other people have said they saw it coming but maybe my lack of investment in the storyline meant I wasn’t focused enough to see it.  

The spirit photography storyline is an interesting one (albeit quite an obsolete one given that digital photography has almost completely replaced it save for a few hipsters), the backdrop is cool and the actors aren’t bad but the script is just a bit lacklustre. The resulting production is very generic and offers pretty much nothing new in the way of originality. I just found it to be overly clichéd with poor pacing. At times it felt like the only thing ramping up the tension was the score as what appeared on screen didn’t match that. There were certainly some missed opportunities when it came to possible scary moments but all told this movie just never seized them. 

Tokyo Fox Rating 5/10

About tokyofox

A Leicester City fan teaching English in Japan
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