Crash Analysis: SHUTTER (2008)

Watch the original Thai version

Married couples move to Japan only to be stalked by a vengeful spirit…

Banjong Pisanthanakun’s and Parkpoom Wongpoom’s phenomenal SHUTTER (Thailand, 2004) is one of the best ghost stories of all time. The American version (with much Japanese influence) is an insult, an extremely poor remake, loaded with the mundane for the lowest common denominator of American audiences.

We’ve seen it one too many times. An overseas film soars and American producers get the rights, rewrite, reshoot, change the story, and dump it upon moviegoers instead of bringing us the bona fide original.

Where the original tale of SHUTTER brings audiences a solid story with excellent acting, visuals and pace, the new incarnation is watered down, sterile and is a couple steps away from appearing like a Lifetime movie of the week.

In this poorly crafted version, Jane (Rachael Taylor) moves with her husband, Ben (Joshua Jackson) to Japan so he can continue his career in photography. After thinking they hit a woman while driving, the couple notices strange images appearing on their photos. Soon enough, they realize it’s spirit photography and the woman in the images is the woman they had run over – Megumi Okina, a Japanese scream queen who appeared in JU-ON and several others.

The scares are non-existent, and the heavy atmosphere that elicited fear in the original is completely lost. There is no suspense whatsoever, just some screams, some running around, a reveal one can see coming a million miles away, and a quiet resolution.

Though an American production, the crew and most of the actors are Japanese, and the movie was made on location in Tokyo. However, the American backers, Japanese, American and Thai producers, did little to make this a stunning motion picture for audiences.

Most important, why are foreign films reshot to begin with? There’s a belief that American audiences are “subtitle phobic”. Hmm… I guess the millions CROUCHING TIGER, HIDDEN DRAGON made was just a fluke. At the cinema, is if difficult to find a seat. Granted, if someone has a better twist on a movie and wants to shell out millions to do a reshoot, go right ahead. However, do us all a favor and bring those non-English speaking films to theatres for us to decide. Sadly, where I now reside, there are no independent cinemas devoted to foreign, independent and quirky cinema. Instead, I have to cope with the latest top-10 movie fair that usually induces vomiting.

The only Americanized version that clearly outshined the original is THE RING (USA/Japan, 2002). Here, the ho-hum tale became a grand mystery with one hell of an unsettling aesthetic. Otherwise, I’ll take the originals every time.

Foreign language horror recommendations (besides the aforementioned): AUDITION (Japan, 1999), A TALE OF TWO SISTERS (Korea, 2002), THE ORPHANAGE (Spain/Mexico, 2007), MARTYRS (France/Canada, 2008), THE UNINVITED GUEST (Spain, 2004), LET THE RIGHT ONE IN (Sweden, 2008) and PREMONITION (Japan, 2004).

1 out of 5 stars

Crash Analysis: THE PRESENCE (2010)

Wake me up when it’s over…

A woman returns to a cabin where she was abused as a child – now, spirits want her.

I’ve enjoyed the work of Mira Sorvino in many a bad movie, and even continued to enjoy her work after some in Hollywood declared her to be a diva bitch. THE PRESENCE, however, is not one of those movies.

Beautifully shot by Cinematographer Collin Brink, this cabin on a small island is the perfect setting for a ghost story. The Woman, played by Sorvino, enters the house and makes herself at home – but someone’s already there. It’s Shane West, who plays the Ghost, and he looks like a mopey emo guy squeezed into preppy clothes. Since I tried my very best not to laugh, I instantly knew this would be “one of those movies” – a low budget commercial horror that looks good, maybe too good, but won’t deliver in the end. For roughly the first fifteen minutes of the story, we follow Sorvino as she lights fires, read books and makes tea. The Ghost is also lurking about, but that’s about it. This continues until Mr. Browman (Muse Watson) swings by to deliver food. He thinks the place is creepy. I think the place would be creepy if the atmosphere had been a little darker, and if the mopey Ghost wasn’t in about every damn shot.

As luck would have it, The Woman’s boyfriend (Justin Kirk), shows up unexpectedly – and the conflict begins.

(Pauses to yawn.) Sorry, it happens. The crux of the matter is that Sorvino’s character has never moved beyond the abuse from her father and sees all men as her cruel, untrustworthy father. At one point, The Woman explodes all over The Man and berates him to no end. Unfortunately, Sorvino didn’t come close to nailing this scene. Her hostility is forced and disingenuous. It’s clear that Screenwriter and Director Thomas Provost should have called for another take. Regardless, Justin Kirk follows up this emotional beating by storming off – then crying out of frustration and despair. Thanks to Provost, he delivered a real man to the screen who is full of emotion.

The problem, however, is that the film backslides into a semi-convoluted plot where spirits fight for control and even whisper in the ears of humans, ala CONSTANTINE. Where the hell did these guys come from? Made little if no sense. Furthermore, the film becomes a bit too melodramatic as it tree sloths along.

The 1.5 stars goes to Justin Kirk and his wonderful portrayal, the cinematographer and actor Tony Curran as The Man in Black (minus shades and guitar, of course). Otherwise, there’s not much to see – or remember.

Recommendations: THE ORPHANAGE (Spain/Mexico, 2007), THE SIXTH SENSE (1999), THE CHANGELING (Canada, 1980), THE HAUNTING (1963), SHUTTER (Thailand, 2004) and PARANORMAL ACTIVITY (2007).

1.5 out of 5 stars