in Shocktober

Shutter (2004)

Before Shutter, I had never seen a Thai film. I’m not sure I could even tell you what one looked like. Ong-Bak, maybe? Does The Hangover Part II count? Ha, just kidding, I know it does. Though I had no idea what to expect from Shutter, which turned out to be great because it totally took me by surprise. I loved almost everything about this film. From the great gimmick of only seeing a ghost via a camera and photos, to the film’s mystery, right down to the decayed design of the spirit itself. Apart from maybe a few too many jump scares I don’t have issue with Shutter. This film is a unique and continually unnerving experience, just like The Hangover II.

Two years after their escapade in Las Vegas—I mean, after a late night drink sesh with the bros, Tun (Ananda Everingham) and his new girlfriend Jane (Natthaweeranuch Thongmee) run over a young woman with their car. Do they do the honest thing and call the cops? Hell no, Tun convinces Jane (the driver) to get the hell out of there. Scared, she complies. BIG MISTAKE. After this, we learn Tun is a photographer, and during a gig at a high school graduation, notices something odd in his photos. There’s a spectral figure lurking in the background of every photo he takes. Is it? Yes, you guessed it. The woman he and Jane killed is haunting them. At first, it’s just the photos, but later it attacks Tun in his studio, stalks Jane, and even convinces some of Tun’s drinking buddies to kill themselves. How could a ghost be this persuasive? The plot thickens.

It turns out this ghost isn’t any ordinary ghost, but the ghost of Tun’s ex-girlfriend Natre (Achita Sikamana), a girl Tun dated out of pity and then let his friends take advantage of. This element really ties the film together. It could have been a perfectly suitable ghost story with Tun having no connection to the ghost, but because he does it adds another layer of complexity. Who are we rooting for? How can Tun redeem himself, if at all? It’s a unique personal struggle in an otherwise standard BOO! CRAP YOUR PANTS! Movie. What a rare treat it is to get a movie that is both scary and thought-provoking.

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After viewing this film I wondered why more ghost films weren’t made to feel this personal. What’s more terrifying than being haunted by your own mistakes? It makes perfect sense for the genre, I’m shocked I haven’t seen it during Shocktober more times. Many of the characters in the films I have watched this year have things in common with their spectral oppressors, but few have had a direct connection. Even fewer are actually worse than their spectral oppressor. What I love about Shutter is you have the choice to root for either side. You can side for Tun after one rough night or with Natre for a rough life. It’s a moral tug-of-war.

From a technical standpoint, Shutter again impresses. It’s not as low key and shoestring as its Japanese brothers. Shutter goes all out with well-crafted makeup and CGI effects and brooding sound. Creepy score too. It amazed me to find this was the first film for writer/directors Banjong Pisanthanakun and Parkpoom Wongpoom, as the film feels very polished and professional.

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Shutter was remade in 2008 with Joshua Jackson, but not even Pacey Witter could save that one. Thankfully, the original needs no saving. It’s a film confident in its lore and ability to terrorize. It has a great hook and knows how to deliver, like The Hangover II… probably.