The Asian horror boom of the last ten years has dissipated into a stream of Ring knock-offs and over produced predictable re-runs of earlier films. Where originally, we had the joy of Hideo Nakata's Ringu and Miike's Audition followed by the Pang Brother's The Eye and Nakata's excellent Dark Water, we now get J-Horror mush produced to order with long haired girls looking ethereal and out of focus whilst crawling out of this domestic appliance or that. Even the original directors have sunk to poorly thought out sequels like the umpteen Ju-On/Grudge films that Takashi Shimuzu has churned out, or tired playing to the gallery like Miike's desperate One Missed Call. The initial boom in chillers came from Hong Kong and Japan, and has spread all over Asia with Korean efforts like Cello and now this Thai frightfest, Shutter.
I won't claim that Shutter is original or inspired by genius, but it is very effectively orchestrated and technically impressive in its management of scares and actors. You will find yourself checking off the titles of other films which you are reminded of periodically and you probably will find the no-nonsense approach to getting straight into the horror rather premature, still this is a film that does exactly as it promises and I will own up to several jumps, chills and a degree of twitching wholly due to how well the movie does its job. I can't say I will watch it again and study it as some kind of masterpiece, but it is a great deal better than most of the Asian horror films of recent years.
The central character, Tun, is a complete tosser and Shutter will please sadists in the way it repays him for his crappy behaviour to his partners past and present. When we meet him, he is with his foul friends as one boasts of his recent marriage whilst not denying that he has been out whoring the night before. Soon Tun and his partner are driving home and they run over a young woman in white, and Tun forces her to drive away from the accident and their victim. Feeling little for their roadkill, Tun is soon disturbed when shadows ruin his photography and strange noises suggest his flat is haunted. A bit of amateur sleuthing from his lover digs up a dark secret and, one by one, Tun's appalling mates start biting the concrete after falling from tall buildings.
Shutter does include a ghost wearing white with long black hair who comes out of a sink, it does include a moment with bedclothes like Ju-On 2, and a rather predictable flashback. Yet it is edited so brilliantly and with such unrelenting pace that even if the narrative seems second-hand, the shocks and terror are unstoppable and if you do find yourself unable to sympathise with the foul Tun it even allows you to enjoy the agonies of his haunting whilst resolving itself unconventionally and powerfully. The jump cuts and use of soft focus to create unease are mercilessly piled on and boredom is not given any kind of hold on the viewer. Shutter gets beyond its unimaginative beginnings to scare the bejeesus out of you and entertain the viewer royally. It's no Dark Water for humanity or an urban fable like Audition, Shutter is simply well executed and scary.
This is a two disc set with the film on disc one and the extras on disc two. The film is presented at the anamorphic ratio of 1.78:1 and the transfer seems to have been converted properly with appropriate PAL speed-up on the running time when compared with NTSC versions. The transfer retains some reasonable film grain and the print quality is excellent, there are some moments of aliasing and some softness in longer shots. Ghosting occurs on a couple of occasions with some motion blur noticeable as well. Colours are muted as per the film's deliberate aesthetic and contrast is well graded in quite a dark looking movie. Overall the image quality is very pleasing.
The sound is available in two surround options, both of which are mixed cleanly with dialogue audible and mainly coming from the front speakers and strong subwoofer tracks for the echoey and reverberating sound effects which are half of the scares here. The DTS tracks seems a little more restrained that the 5.1 option with less of an impact in the punchier moments of the soundtrack, and for that reason I would favour the Dolby 5.1 option even though both are distortion free and well distributed across the speakers. The English subs are very easy to read and of excellent grammar.
Disc two's main extra is a video of the cast and crew commentary. Which involves watching the four main actors and the director sit on a sofa and watch the film which is also displayed in a small box on our screen. This probably doesn't sound much like a good idea, and you may wonder why this wasn't offered as an "angle" option on the main disc but it is even less exciting that it sounds with the cast not exactly being a bunch of MENSA candidates or raconteurs. The main comments are about explaining how scenes were done and fondly recalling the fun they had, but some more dumb remarks are made such as "it's all so obvious when you see it for the second time". I am still to be convinced of the value of subtitled commentaries for films that are subtitled themselves and the added value of watching people watching the film seems a little redundant anyway.
The rest of the extras on the disc include a making of documentary lasting nine minutes with background given to the effects involved in various scenes as well as footage of scenes being shot and make up being applied. the production notes section of the disc includes deleted and alternate scenes, a photo montage of filming, a gallery of real spirit pictures and some interesting drawing and storyboard comparisons which show real preparation and vision by the director. There is a UK trailer, the original trailer, three TV spots and a teaser and like all of the extras these are well subbed. Some of the extras do seem to have not been properly converted from NTSC sources with ghosting and combing evident.