Shutter (HK - DVD R3)
The concept of weird images appearing in photos and girls coming back from the dead to wreak revenge is not particularly new, but ...
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Asian cinema appears to be cornering the market at the moment with some really unusual horror movies, all of which really spawned from the remarkable Ring Trilogy. The trouble is, a few years down the line and you realise that there are only so many ways you can do the same concept without it getting repetitive. The Ring films, The Grudge, Dark Water - they all relied on scary children and freaky occurrences within an average every-day existence. The question is, can Thailand offer something new into the bargain with Shutter, or is it just another retread?
Tun is a professional photographer. One night, after a few drinks, his girlfriend is driving him home when all of a sudden they hit a girl who walks out in front of the car. Jane wants to stop and help but Tun suggests they drive on and pretty soon they are trying to forget that the nightmare ever occurred. But then strange things start happening; they both start seeing ghostly images in their photos - images of a pale, deathly girl. Haunted by the terrible nightmares that plague their day and night lives, they eventually try to find out who the girl is, but not before she starts picking off Tun's friends one by one.
Initially, it seems as though this Thai movie borrows from almost every successful Japanese horror concept before it but it somehow manages to avoid seeming clichéd or unoriginal and is actually quite engrossing. Sure the archetypal pale young girl with long hair – who we’ve seen crawling around looking dead in umpteen of the aforementioned horrors – is present and correct but aside from that you tend to forget what you’ve seen before and become absorbed in the story. The twists and turns as Tun and Jane unravel the nightmare that they are embroiled in get increasingly disturbing and occasionally downright scary.
The movie is shot extremely well, creating a real sense of impending doom and the director does some pretty nifty tricks to get you jumping. Of course, much of the credit, as is often the case in decent movies, should go to the cast. Ananda Everingham portrays the damaged photographer Tun as a brooding, worried mess of a would-be hero. Natthaweeranuch Thongmee seems much more innocent as his girlfriend, Jane, who suffers the full horrors of the nightmare that her boyfriend appears to have involved her in. You really feel the shocks and frights through their reactions to them and the film has several unusual scenes that bring out the best in each actor’s repertoire.
To top it all off, the score does an amazing job of bringing the horrors home, cranking up the tension as the need requires or just smashing down on you with a shocking surprise bang when you least expect it. Occasionally this movie lapses into familiar territory but overall it is a refreshing little horror-thriller from Thailand that is well worth your time.
Shutter is presented in an anamorphic widescreen format with an aspect ratio of 1.85:1, which seems have been green filtered to give the whole movie that clinical hue present in so many of those recent Japanese horrors. The detail is generally good with no signs of edge enhancement and only occasional softness in some scenes. As stated, the colour scheme is biased towards greens (apart from during the red-biased photo darkroom scenes), but the colours are generally well portrayed and the blood looks particularly convincing. Blacks are pretty solid but grain levels occasionally interfere with the shadows, although the grain seldom detracts from your enjoyment of the film. It is an average transfer that doesn’t break any boundaries but is perfectly acceptable.
As with many of these seemingly basic Asian releases, the soundtrack is where all of the effort has clearly gone. Here we get two fantastic audio mixes in the original Thai language – a DTS 6.1 ES track and a Dolby 6.1 EX track, along with a third slightly poorer Dolby 2.0 mix also in Thai. Both the DTS and Dolby offerings are pretty top-notch, with clear and coherent dialogue throughout; mainly emanating from the frontal array and nice observation of minor effects from the surrounds. There is even a little bass, mainly thanks to a brooding soundtrack that explodes into life as and when it is required to. There is little difference between the two leading mixes although, as is normally the case, the DTS does tend to have slightly greater potency.
There are a few extra features on this disc but most of them are a little too short to get into. First up there is a Behind the Scenes section split into four parts – the Car Crash, the Suicide, the Ladder and a brief look at a real picture that they took on location which appeared to have a mysterious spirit on it. The segments are all little over a minute in length, featuring comments from the directors but very little revealing information or footage. There is a two-minute interview with the directors and cast, which consist mainly of the directors talking about their original concept and the research they did into making the movie. The ‘Feature’ section appears to be just a forty-second trailer-like montage with the directors talking again about what the film is about. The ‘Scoop in the Picture’ section has a brief ninety-second collection of interviews with real photography specialists and emergency staff talking about the film and their own knowledge of the realm. Finally we get three trailers: the first consists of just the weird photos from the movie, the second plays out one of the best scenes from the movie and the third is your usual style which tends to give a lot away.
It should be noted that the supplements have optional English subtitles and the menus are very easy to navigate.
Shutter is a remarkably enjoyable new Thai horror that only adds to other Asian movies in the genre that have paved the way. The video is little above average but the soundtracks are fantastic and there are even a few all-too-short extras to round off this disc. If you like your Asian horror then you should pick this up as a worthy addition and if you are bored by the last few similarly-themed films in the genre then this might just be a pleasant surprise.
[i]You can purchase this title for $16.99 from top retailer Yes Asia.
Review by Casimir Harlow
Not suitable for young persons and children
Release Date: 17th February 2005
Disc Type: Single side, dual layer
Audio: DTS 5.1 ES Thai, Dolby Digital 5.1 EX Thai, Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround Thai
Subtitles: English, Traditional Chinese, Simplified Chinese
Extras: Behind the Scenes Featurette, Interview with Directors and Cast
Easter Egg: No
Director: Parkpoom Wongpoom and Banjong Pisanthanakun
Cast: Ananda Everingham, Natthaweeranuch Thongmee, Achita Sikamana
Length: 93 minutes
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