Shutter [Blu-ray]
Blu-ray A - America - Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment
Review written by and copyright: Pat Pilon (12th August 2008).
The Film

Hollywood has taken it upon themselves to remake a whole slew of Asian movies in the past few years. However, whether the original is from Japan ('Dark Water', 'The Grudge'), Hong Kong ('The Eye'), or, in this case, Thailand, there's always something lost in translation. I'm not sure what quality wasn't able to be transferred here, and it's a surprise to me considering the talent involved.

Making the movie is producer extraordinaire Takashige Ichise, who has been responsible for producing a whole slew of J-horror movies like the 'Ringu' saga, the original 'Dark Water' and 'Infection'. Behind the also behind the camera is director Masayuki Ochiai, who directed 'Infection'. In front of the camera, is the accomplished Megumi Okina, who acted in the theatrical 'Juon' movie ('The Grudge'), and the exceptionally entertaining 'Red Shadow'. The cute scientist from 'Transformers', Rachael Taylor here plays the central character, Jane, and new wife for Joshua Jackson's photographer character, Ben.

The newlyweds get whisked to Tokyo thanks to Ben's job. There, strange things start happening, usually centering around pictures and ghosts, sometimes even both at the same time. Hollywood movies directed by Japanese directors usually suffer from a poor script and dialogue; they, however, excel at cinematography.

In this case, with the dialogue out of the question for director Mr. Ochiai, he decided to concentrate on telling the movie through images. The framing and lighting is very well done, creating a great atmosphere, with a couple of standout shots. The scary moment in the flashing photo studio, and the one shot in Bruno's office from under the table through the photo clippings really impressed me.

The big setback of the movie is the connection you have to the characters. Rachael Taylor and Joshua Jackson are good actors (despite Miss Taylor's on-again-off-again accent once or twice near the end), but they can't seem to make you believe they love each other. Their chemistry peters out pretty quickly, and they have strange characters swings. Their relationship is somewhat like a pendulum, though at times it's not sure when the weight will swing back to liking or disliking each other.

This is the worst point of the movie and everything falls apart because of it. You don't feel much for the couple, not really caring whether they're together or not. Because of this, the scary moments aren't really scary because there's no emotional connection to the people being threatened. Whether they die or not was beside the point for me. I was looking at the craftsmanship of the movie.

The big reveal at the end is not so big, as anybody who's seen these kinds of movies will be able to figure out what happened in the movie at the 43-minute mark or so. Remakes are tricky to do, especially when crossing cultures and trying to appeal to the right audience. 'Shutter' tries hard and accomplishes some of what hit wants, while missing some others. Hollywood will no doubt keep remaking Asian horror movies, and hopefully can learn from 'Shutter'.

Video

1.85:1 widescreen, using the MPEG-4/AVC codec. Fox does a very good job making the movie look sharp and atmospheric. Black levels are nice, though do waver in a couple of scenes, being stronger in one and grayish in another. Shadow detail when blacks are darker is very good. Skin tones may be a bit yellow at times, I found, but for the most part, they're okay, considering the rest of the palette, which is pretty flat. The colours are bright and strong, which is good. The level of detail is also very good, as the print shows no problems, and the compression and authoring are very good.

Audio

This being Fox, the main audio track is an English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track. The track is very good throughout. There are always little atmospheric sounds coming from all around your head. Positions are very accurate when it comes to cars, door and people making noise in the sound environment. Dialogue is also always clear and centered. The music comes out very clear, as well, and the subwoofer even gets in on the action for the track. The volume levels are very appropriate, as the movie requires the right atmosphere. For the record, Dolby Digital 5.1 tracks are available in French and Spanish.
English, Spanish, Traditional and Simplified Chinese (identified as Cantonese and Mandarin on the disc), and Korean subtitles are here.

Extras

Fox was very nice to this moderate hit. First off is the audio commentary by production executive Alex Sundell, screenwriter Luke Dawson and actress Rachel Taylor. This trio is very entertaining. With nary a dead spot in the entire track they talk about everything you can imagine. The locations, the script, the acting, the characters, the technical stuff and a lot of behind the scenes stories are discussed. They also mention all the scenes they liked, and what scenes worked best. Unfortunately, they're all pretty pleased with the movie, so they don't say what they don't really like, but their talk is a very energetic one. Fans of the movie will definitely enjoy this and it's worth listening to even if you didn't much like the movie.

After that, a whole slew of featurettes can be seen. A Ghost in the Lens (8:09) is somewhat of an introduction to the extras. It introduces the topics of spirit photography and shooting in Japan. The actors and the some of the crew are also glossed over in this somewhat fluffy piece. A Cultural Divide: Shooting in Japan (9:21) goes into more depth about shooting in Tokyo. The actors and producers talk about the culture shock and how nice shooting and the Japanese were. It's a good featurette with some nice stories.

The Director: Masayuki Ochiai (9:32) is an interview with the director. He discusses making the movie, spirit photography and how he tried to accommodate the movie for both Japanese people and American audiences. He also talks about the movie's story, making this a worthwhile extra. A Conversation with Luke Dawson (5:33) is likewise pretty interesting. Mr. Dawson talks about how he got the project, how he adapted it, and how it was working in Japan. He talks about being on set and filming the movie.

Next up are a bunch of feaurettes about the movie's subject matter. A History of Spirit Photograph (4:50) is just that. The featurette follows ghost photography from 1861 through to the present. It recounts the discovery of ghost photography and how crazy people went for it and the conmen that took advantage of those who wanted to see their deceased loved ones. A longer documentary would make for a fascinating television programme. Create Your Own Phantom Photo (4:00) has someone playing on their computer, showing you hwo to composite one picture onto another, creating a ghostly image. I would try this if I had the right software. Though it may seem complex, the person explaining everything does a very good job making things very simple. The Hunt for the Haunt: Tools and Tips for Ghost Hunting (2:29) is a lot less fascinating than it seems. I find his surprising considering how seriously the rest of the disc takes the movie's subject matter. In this, you can read about the best places and the best ways to get spirit photographs. Now, I don't have the time to actually follow these suggestions (and it's not like I live in a ghost-less city), but I have the feeling I wouldn't have any luck photographing a ghost.

Fox Movie Channel Presents: In Character with Joshua Jackson (2:06) is nothing more than a fluff piece. Mr. Jackson talks about his character in relation to the movie, and thatís it. There's not much more to this.

Next are some Japanese Spirit Photography Videos, which are very good. They are a series of three videos taken for purposes I am unaware of, though I do know they're not real, despite what it looks like. The videos are very good. So scary, in fact, that if the movie were a string of these videos together, it would probably be better. The three videos are 'Part 1: The Lost Camera' (5:53), 'Part 2: The Red Thing' (5:57) and 'Part 3: Finally Free' (5:14).

Alternate and Deleted Scenes (27:18 total) finish off the round of real extras. There are 15 scenes here, 6 of which are alternate or extended. Many of the scenes concern Jane and the alienation and isolation she feels in Tokyo. Leaving them in the movie would just pound the point too much. One scene in the movie is enough to say this and all these extra scenes aren't needed. The extensions and alternate scenes don't add too much and what's in the movie is fine as it is. The alternate ending is not as good as the movie ending, though both are very similar except for one small but important detail. The scenes are: 'The Wedding' (2:09), 'Alternate Scene: Mount Fuji' (0:49), 'Ben and Jane on the Couch' (0:47), 'Jane Eats a Big Mac' (0:45), 'Extended Restaurant Scene' (2:35), 'Jane Watches TV' (0:47), 'Jane Gets Directions' (0:56), 'Alternate Scene: Jane Rides the Subway' (2:28), 'Ben's Photo Shoot' (0:25), 'Flashbacks of Megumi' (0:53), 'The Hospital' (0:38), 'Alternate Scene: Megumi's House' (8:50), 'Jane Becomes Megumi' (1:48), 'Extended Flashbacks of Megumi' (1:37) and 'Alternate Ending: Mental Hospital' (1:32).

Some start-up trailers are at the front of the main menu. A Digital Copy ad (1:05), 'Street Kings' (1:20) and 'Deception' (2:18) are here.

Overall

The Film: C Video: B- Audio: B+ Extras: B Overall: B-

 


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