Shutter is a film that tries, perhaps harder than any other film in recent memory, to scare the pants off the viewer. What Airplane! was to comedy films, Shutter is to horror. Just about each and every moment in the film is a set-up to a scare scene of some kind, usually involving a ghost popping out of nowhere, and usually accompanied by a loud noise on the soundtrack. While that may sound interesting on paper, and while it is executed rather fairly well here on film, the problem is that, while it offers them in sheer quantity, the quality of each scare suffers; everything captured here has all been done before.
Ask anyone what constitutes a truly great scare film, and most of them will tell you a creepy atmosphere and a constant feeling of dread. Movies that rely on the imagination of the viewer, rather than those that explicitly show shocks or gore, are typically the ones that resonate with the viewer long after the final frame is exposed. Shutter, however, is content to rely almost entirely on jump scares. Sure, while a few are no doubt successful, the problem is that the feeling of terror is gone almost as soon as the scare is revealed. In the end, it feels more like a haunted house attraction at Halloween, rather than a true classic of terror cinema.
Tun (played by Ananda Everingham) is a photographer who, along with his lovely girlfriend Jane (Natthaweeranuch Thongmee) run over a girl after a long night of drinking. Of course, they decide to keep on driving, rather than checking to see if she is okay. Bad move. Before you know it, bizarre streaks are showing up in Tun’s photos, one by one his friends end up dead, and Tun is seeing bizarre visions of the girl they ran over. Who is she? What does she want (besides vengeance)? Can Tun and Jane survive this nightmare?
While the writing is more or less average for this kind of film, I will say that it does manage a surprisingly poignant explanation of who the ghost is, and (later) a rather shocking revelation of why it’s after Tun and his friends. These sequences actually stand out more than the endless barrage of horror, and it’s probably because it’s about the only time in its 97 minute run-time that the movie actually strives for some sort of character development. Up until these sequences, Tun and Jane just seem like the typical horror stereotypes; characters that deserve what’s coming to them for a horrible deed they have committed. But for a few fleeting seconds, one almost feels pity for Tun as he relates a story that almost anyone can relate to, a story that makes him seem almost human (though he certainly ruins it with another flashback later on).
If you are just looking for a film that will do anything to try to scare you for most of its running time, look no further. Shutter is excellent in that regard, with an attempted-scares-per-minute ratio higher than perhaps any movie I’ve ever seen. It’s almost an hour-and-a-half of pure frights, with little breaks in between. This makes it a perfect film for watching with friends over a few beers. However, if you are looking for something that will cause you to lose sleep, something that will stay with you long after you turn on the lights, then you would do better to pass up on this one and track down something like The Descent, or, my personal favorite (and one that is completely underrated), Black Sabbath.
Rating: * * * (out of 4)