‘Shutter’ is a movie that’s a few years behind its time, maybe even a few decades.If the Japanese horror classics “Ringu” and “Ju-On: The Grudge” and their English-language remakes hadn’t already been released, “Shutter” wouldn’t have seemed so routine. As it stands, “Shutter” is a sad reminder that both the ideas and the craft of filmmaking have moved on.
It was risky for writer Luke Dawson and Japanese director Masayuki Ochiai to reconfigure a 2004 Thai hit that’s already been reworked by Bollywood. It’s an even dicier prospect if you film the remake in Tokyo with an English-speaking cast.
A pair of newlyweds from Brooklyn named Benjamin and Jane Shaw (Joshua Jackson and Australian actress Rachel Taylor, “Transformers”) have just moved to Japan so that Ben can pursue his photography career.
Before the two can enjoy their honeymoon, Jane hits a glassy-eyed pedestrian (Megumi Okina, “Ju-On”) as she’s trying to find her way to their hotel. It’s hard to tell if the event even happened because there’s no body, and the victim Jane thinks she saw wasn’t dressed for strolling in the snow.
The two try to get used to their new surroundings, but Ben’s photos keep showing weird splotches that look as if he scratched the negative or gave his pictures a strange form of red-eye. Jane instantly recognizes the blurs as the woman from the highway, and she and Ben continue to see her apparition everywhere they go.
All of this might be scary if Ochiai had a wider arsenal of shocks to choose from. After a while, it actually starts to get funny whenever Ochiai amplifies mundane sounds like a creaking door or hair brushing in an attempt to jolt viewers.
The gore and makeup effects are curiously pedestrian. In addition to recycling images from “Poltergeist” and J-Horror film, the blood and goo aren’t terribly convincing, much less creepy.
The spirit photography lore that’s supposed to provide the backbone of the story is too undercooked to be involving. Most of the spirit photos in the past were accomplished through simple double exposures. There’s no great mystery in that.
It also doesn’t help that Dawson and Ochiai are a little behind current trends in photography. Polaroid instant pictures are all but dead these days, and it’s hard to imagine a modeling shoot that would be derailed by a few smudged exposures. Haven’t these folks heard of PhotoShop or digital cameras?
Dawson’s dialog sounds as if he’s taking ideas that sounded OK in one language but resonate poorly in English. Listening to Taylor attempt to tell off a malignant spirit is funnier than anything in “Drillbit Taylor.”
The Japanese setting also proves problematic. Ben has a detailed back story in the Land of the Rising Sun, but Jane only learns of it once she’s there, too. How did these two fall in love when they’ve had so little time together and when Jackson and Taylor have so little chemistry? To Taylor’s credit, she does at least sound convincing as a Yank.If you want to see an effective horror film, it might not hurt to get comfortable reading subtitles. When interesting Asian films get Anglicized, they often lose the cultural roots that made their stories scary to begin with. There’s little sense shelling out $11 dollars to see a crummy remake in the theater when the original is easily available on Netflix.