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Movie Review: Shutter

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Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned. That idiomatic sentiment goes double for this rarified anecdote, considering the aforementioned unbalanced and infatuated mistress is bloodless and breathless. In other words — dead. That’s the dim lit and dimwit paranormal premise of Shutter, a recycled remake of a Thai film of the same name (Shutter, 2004). In either incarnation, it’s a phantasmal tale of unrequited love’s bitter one-foot-in-the-grave revenge.

World in the palms of their hands, twentysomethings Jane (Rachael Taylor, Transformers) and Ben Shaw (Joshua Jackson, TV’s Dawson’s Creek) are recently married when the two of them depart on an exciting job assignment, in the neatly framed guise of a honeymoon, to Japan. Ben is a renowned freelance fashion photographer who’s landed a big gig in the Land of the Rising Sun.

Having touched down in the Far East, things get off to a bumpy start when the newlyweds’ car accidentally hits a freakishly pasty, anorexic looking woman standing in the darkened road. Behind-the-wheel Jane demands they stop to help the woman. There’s no trace of a body, blood, or brains — from a corpse, or we’re soon to discover, in the latter case, the movie. A case of been hit and run. Husband Ben dismissively comforts Jane by telling her she probably just hit an animal. I love you — will you marry me? — you’re hallucinating. Say c-h-e-e-s-e; now let’s you go watch me take some ornamental pictures.

Destination Tokyo reached (the movie was shot on location), touristy Jane aimlessly wanders the sanitized streets of the crowded metropolis while Ben commences his shutterfly duties. Jane is restless, not being able to get the moving violation out of her head. Back at the apartment, she’s experiencing nightmares, hearing haunting whispers (“You left me here”), and noticing strange apparitions appearing in the couple’s assortment of stills. With the compulsory investigation, Jane discovers that these likenesses are spirits. We’re quick to learn that picture-takers have been capturing these mugging ghosts in their serpentine attempts to send frigorific messages since the 1800s.

Had we known that “spirit photography” represents the means for the bogeymen and women to communicate their emotional energy we, and The Sixth Sense’s (1999) Malcolm Crowe (Bruce Willis), might have well realized the good doctor Crowe was already dead sooner, rather than later. No thanks to M. Night Shyamalan he didn’t, so we don’t. Back at the bokuya — that’s Japanese for ranch — Jane’s female intuition is leaving much to be desired. She’s knee deep in suspicion before her fears materialize — the shadowy girl she’s seeing and hearing is Ben’s crazy ex-girlfriend.

Skeletons spilling out of the closet, we ascertain that Ben knew/knows the spooky woman. Before he met Jane the handsome devil was mixed up romantically with a Japanese woman named Megumi (Megumi Okina), a translator who accompanied him on fashion shoots. Jittery flashbacks reveal that the diminutive woman was obsessive and stalked Ben with Fatal Attraction fervor. To put a stop to the madness, Ben explains to Jane, he abruptly ended the relationship. Define "ended". Can you use it in a sentence? The lunatic concubine must be following him again — reputedly stepping up the menacing intensity by allowing herself to be run over by cars. For American auds, it’s a haunting of convenience in that Megumi is bilingual. She issues her esoteric communiqués in English, rather than via less than frightful subtitles.

The fanfare intensifies when a couple of Ben’s close friends Adam (John Hensley) and Bruno (David Denman) wake up dead. Jane and Ben don’t know it yet. We do. It’s that annoying ex-sweetheart’s doing. It’s way too late for Hallmark to patch things up now. But why would Megumi grease the wheels for their gruesome deaths while Ben is still collecting deteriorating snapshots? Dead wait. The spurned suitor must have a damn good reason for coming back from daisies pushing and the increasingly suspicious Jane aims to find out what it is. That’s grrrl—supernatural—power.

Pressured to come clean by his fuming bride, Ben admits in a fit of egomaniacal finger pointing that he might have been involved in her demise. He was there — somebody had to take pictures to commemorate the festivities — but he never laid a hand on her. With Jane having figured out that the man of her dreams is the reason for her nightmares she leaves in a disgusted rage. A solo Ben is left to battle the angry ex alone hando-dzuki-hando. My money’s on the girl, if not the price of admission.

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