(a.k.a. SHUTTER: THEY ARE AROUND US)
Tun (Ananda Everingham) and Jane (Natthaweeranuch Thongmee) attend a friend's wedding and have a splendid evening filled with laughter and - for Tun - booze.
Jane drives them back home at the end of the night and their laughter continues in the car, until she accidentally knocks a woman over in the road. The car crashes and Tun suffers a heavy blow to his head. Jane is more concerned about the woman lying lifeless in the road and wants to get out to check her physical status, but Tun convinces her to drive away.
In the following days, Jane becomes increasingly distant towards Tun, and withdrawn from the world in general. Even her friend Nuch (Panitan Mavichak) comments about not having seen Jane in some time, when Tun turns up at college to photograph Nuch's graduation.
After picking his photographs up from the local printing shop, Tun takes them home and is startled to discover strange white shadows over most of them. He shows the photos to Jane, who notices a grey image of a female lurking in the background of one group shot.
Together, they begin to investigate the strange marks on the photographs. First, Tun visits the printing shop and speaks to its owner, who dismisses the face in the group photo as "double exposure". But, unconvinced, the couple delve deeper, meeting with an unscrupulous editor of a paranormal magazine who shows them a wealth of stills from around the world, purporting to have caught spirits on film. He chills them by claiming he believes the spirits are related to the people in the photos, and are trying to convey messages from beyond the grave to those concerned.
The plot thickens when Tun and Jane discover that no body was found at the scene of their accident, no accidents were reported on that evening, and Tun's neck pain appear to be all in his head per a hospital check-up.
Furthermore, after much rooting over photographs that claim to have caught ghosts in their images, Tun realises the truth lies closer to home - and is most likely part of his own past - when he discovers his best friends have been mysteriously committing suicide.
SHUTTER was Thailand's horror hit of 2004. It certainly ticks all the usual boxes in terms of qualifying as typical Asian horror fare: stylishly lit with muted colour schemes; a slow build-up punctuated by nightmare sequences (in this case, set-pieces such as when Jane imagines a woman to be clawing her way out of Tun's darkroom sink); themes of guilt, revenge and an unsavoury act buried in character's past; leftfield editing techniques that sometimes jar, and at other times simply confuse; a scratch-your-head final scene ...
It's certainly efficient enough, especially on a technical level. The performances are solid throughout (the fact that the lead couple are believable and likeable is an asset), while the music is nicely subtle and the co-direction of Banjong Pisanthanakun and Parkpoom Wongpoom is slick and assured, ensuring that despite the measured nature of the storytelling that pacing is never a problem.
The main flaws with SHUTTER are that it is not overly original. Sure, the principal idea is mildly novel, but the way it's delivered and the way the plot turns out will not be revelatory for anyone with even a passing familiarity with Asian horror films.
SHUTTER follows the Asian horror formula too, as mentioned above, of introducing an interesting idea, then giving us some engaging drama between the lead actors before forsaking all the credible groundwork of it's first half and instead plying on the shock theatrics in a desperate attempt to be creepy. And while that may work in films like AUDITION or RINGU, that's not the case here. It's all been done before, and so much more effectively.
There are a couple of admittedly effective scenes (one involving a power cut during a photo shoot) that work well, but SHUTTER is ultimately good-looking, forgettable stuff.
The 2-disc Special Edition offers a solid transfer on disc 1. Presented in an anamorphic 1.78:1 ratio, colours are washed out - intentional, as it's typical of Thai cinema to look this way - and images are sharp with healthy contrast and accurate flesh tones.
The original Thai audio is available in 5.1 and DTS soundtracks, with optional English subtitles.
Animated main menus include access to a static scene-selection menu offering 18 chapters.
The only "extras" on disc 1 are trailers for CITY OF VIOLENCE, THE GRUDGE, THE GRUDGE 2 and TYPHOON.
Disc 2 kicks off with animated menus offering us some very interesting bonus material.
First up is a commentary track from Everingham, Wongpoom, Pisanthanakun, Thongmee and co-star Chachchaya Chalemphol. The interesting thing about this feature is that it's presented as a split-screen - so we can see the actors and filmmakers sat on a large couch as they comment upon what they're watching, as well as watch the film with them. It's a novel idea and it works pretty well.
Next up is a 9-minute Making Of featurette which offers the usual mix of cast/crew interviews with behind-the-scenes footage. It's interesting during this and the commentary, to note how young the directors look.
3 TV spots and 3 trailers follow.
Finally, we get a sub-menu uninspiringly entitled "Production Notes". What this actually offers though are plenty more extras: 17 minutes of alternate and extended scenes; 14 minutes of storyboard-to-film comparisons; a 2-minute gallery of photographs from around the world that have captured "genuine" ghosts; a 3-minute gallery of stills from the film; a 1-minute gallery of production sketches and 3 minutes of "undeveloped" (deleted) scenes.
All extras come equipped with optional English subtitles.
SHUTTER is run-of-the-mill Asian horror fare. If you like your Asian horrors, you'll no doubt fall for this too - it ticks all the right boxes without ever straying by trying to do anything out of the ordinary. If you're tired of this formulaic approach, and you don't really believe in ghosts, then SHUTTER could well be the most boring genre film you see all year.
Whichever way you look at it, the 2-disc SE is a nice package.
Review by Stuart Willis
|Released by Tartan Asia Extreme|
|Region 2 - PAL|
|see main review|