Combustible Celluloid
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With: Joshua Jackson, Rachael Taylor, Megumi Okina, David Denman, John Hensley, Maya Hazen, James Kyson Lee, Yoshiko Miyazaki, Kei Yamamoto, Daisy Betts, Adrienne Pickering
Written by: Luke Dawson
Directed by: Masayuki Ochiai
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for terror, disturbing images, sexual content and language
Running Time: 86
Date: 03/19/2008

Shutter (2008)

2 Stars (out of 4)

Flash in the Pan

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

The original Shutter (2004) originated in Thailand -- and is set in Bangkok -- rather than Japan. The new American remake squashes even that one unique factor by turning right around and setting the story among Americans in Tokyo. Ben Shaw (Joshua Jackson) is a professional photographer newly married to blonde hottie Jane (Rachael Taylor). Just after their honeymoon, they land in Tokyo so that Ben can start his amazing new job, shooting colorful layouts of geisha girls. On the road, their car strikes a girl, though no evidence of her body is ever found. More strange things begin happening. White streaks appear in Ben's photos and Jane begins seeing the girl all over the place. With a little detective work, Jane discovers that Ben actually knew her. She was Megumi Tanaka (Megumi Okina), a shy, uncertain translator. Ben may have been her first love, but he didn't love her quite the same and things ended badly. So why, then, are Ben's buddies Bruno (David Denman) and Adam (John Hensley) suddenly dying? Co-directed by Banjong Pisanthanakun and Parkpoom Wongpoom, the 2004 film is no work of genius, but it contains several effective set-pieces, many of which are re-created here. The best scene has our photographer alone in his studio when the lights suddenly go out. Someone, or something, begins triggering the camera's flashblub, and so we get sudden, half-second bursts of blinding white light. Each burst takes place in a different corner of the room, from a different angle, and in each Megumi seems to be getting closer. To its credit, the new film runs a bit smoother and leaner, clocking in a few minutes shorter than the original and excising a few stupid scenes -- like one in a truckstop bathroom -- that just don't work. But, really, what's the point? It's a business deal rather than a movie, and this lack of connection comes through emotionally: Ben and Jane never really seem like they're married or that they even know each other, nor is there any chemistry between any of the other characters. It's a hugely cynical and callous ploy to get teenagers into the theaters for one week before the bad word of mouth spreads.

DVD Details: The "unrated" version runs about four minutes longer than the theatrical version, but I didn't have the time nor the wherewithal to watch it again to find the differences. The DVD from Fox comes with English, French and Spanish audio mixes, plus a commentary track by production executive Alex Sundell, screewnriter Luke Dawson and actress Rachel Taylor. The disc also includes two making-of featurettes, an interview with the director (in Japanese with English subtitles), an interview with the screenwriter, and featurettes about ghosts and ghost photography. There's also alternate and deleted scenes and a couple of trailers. Optional subtitles come in English and Spanish. There's an "inside look" featurette for the upcoming Mirrors. Shutter

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