Another week, another crappy Japanese horror remake. This subgenre just won’t die. It reminds me of the not-so-creepy villains who haunt every single one of these movies. No matter how many wells they get thrown down or cars that plow them over, they just keep getting back up and creeping toward you at a snail’s pace. If you’ve seen “The Ring,” “The Grudge” or the more recent “The Eye,” then you’ve seen “Shutter.” The only difference here is that the title doesn’t have the word “the” in front of it.
Photographer Benjamin Shaw (Joshua Jackson) has just married Jane Shaw (Rachael Taylor), who claims she’s a sixth grade English teacher. But this characterization is forced, as she seems to have a difficult time putting simple sentences together, let alone teaching others how to read and write. The two hop on a plane for Japan, where Benjamin has a job waiting for him. One evening, while driving through the countryside, Jane hits a creepy-looking girl who mysteriously disappears after the accident. From then on, all of the Shaw’s pictures have some weird white orbs in them, which someone refers to as spirit photography. This leads detective Jane to discover the mystery of the young girl, unraveling a Shakespearean tale of lies, betrayal and revenge.
The premise of “Shutter” is weak. At the first mention of spirit photography, I knew I was in for a rough ride. When a film’s plot hinges on a white smudge across a photograph, it’s obvious the writers weren’t trying. It’s actually quite hilarious, because every character in the film, aside from Jackson’s, buys this concept hook, line and sinker. From there it’s standard Japanese horror. Paranormal events, such as lights shutting off, start to occur and the characters react to them with irrational fear. Of course, the villain is a young woman who looks identical to every other villain in these films. “Shutter” is as original as it is scary, which is to say it’s not at all.
But what “Shutter” has is some of the dumbest characters ever seen, even for a horror film. For supposedly being top executives and photographers at an international modeling agency, Benjamin and his friends are morons. And when the cliché blonde who constantly has a dumb look on her face is the smartest character, you’re in for trouble. I’m amazed she was able to walk out of her apartment without running head first into every wall.
The only thing that could make these idiotic characters any better would be to cast actors who are best fit for infomercials, although that might be what the producers of “Shutter” tried to do.
Taylor is beyond laughably bad. She either needs to take five more years of acting lessons or consider an early retirement from the business.
When it comes to Jackson’s performance, I’m convinced that he just plays himself. From now on, whenever I see the “Dawson’s Creek” alumnus, I’m going to think of him as a cocky photographer who speaks terrible Japanese.
For a better part of the film’s 85-minute runtime, I was convinced that this was a comedy. The movie lacks any thrills. For a time, it’s funny, but after about 30 minutes it just gets depressing. Toward the end, when the “action” kicks in, the attempts to scare become so predictable that you wonder how anyone attached to this has a job in Hollywood.
Japanese horror needs to stop. It’s had its run and now it’s time for a break. Maybe in 15 or so years, someone with talent can come back to the genre, but for now it just needs to go away, and horror fans have films like “Shutter” to thank for that.