Everything starts out pretty sedately, with a few friends around a table enjoying some drinks. Photographer Tun (Ananda Everingham) and his girlfriend Jane (Natthaweeranuch Thongmee) decide to call it a night and begin their drive home. Clearly drink-driving isn't quite the taboo in Thailand as it is over here. Nevertheless, in a momentary lapse in concentration, Tun runs over a young woman. Rather than face incrimination, Tun floors the accelerator and makes like the invisible drink driver, something Jane is none too happy about during the next few days. What they are both even less happy about is that the young woman seems to be haunting them and their friends until they commit suicide through sheer terror. Yes, that last bit would appear to be mildly distressing for Tun and Jane, especially when the spirit starts appearing on Tun's photos.
What can I say? I am very impressed. Very impressed indeed. I have seen a fair few horror movies in my time and, while I wouldn't profess to be a far eastern horror expert, I can say that Shutter is up there with the best of them. Atmosphere is spot on from the first moment something eerie occurs with stunning use of sound combined with “you know what's going to happen” directional framing. My only gripe is that yet another thin white faced girl with long lank hair is used as Shutter's supernatural focus. Why can't it be a jolly old woman who bakes bread who is killed? Or an old man with three teeth who tells ancient stories to those who'll listen? Anyone but a Ringu/Dark Water clone. At least by the end of the movie the use of the girl has a payoff that justifies the plagiarism and in so doing more aptly deploys Ringu's iconography than any other movie I can think of. Including Ringu, as it happens. Despite some potent homage's, Shutter is well capable of holding its own. Indeed I was happily enjoying a Chinese takeaway when one of a number of perfectly choreographed set pieces made me drop most of it on the floor! I kid you not.
Not that Shutter is all grim and no fun. There are a few very bleak humorous moments that lighten the mood without parody. One especially discordant scene has Tun's bed sheets being pulled off of him. He then tentatively looks under the bed like an eight year old might. Another involving a transvestite is particularly well handled and serves to freshen up the watcher for another fright. Speaking of which...
Within Shutter there are two wonderful mechanics that are used: one to quietly build tension and another to explosively dispel it. Firstly, photos are used to display a disquieting ethereal presence. The photo's are static, but infer a deeply unsettling reality that at once works at our minds as it is seen to work in the minds of the characters onscreen. The superbly emotive sound design then incurs apprehension - off key sounds and brittle nervous music both build subliminally as the actors onscreen behave with increased anxiety. Then more noise, more bass, more sounds, more shouting, yelling, screaming, panic and disorientation until you cant bear it any more. The actors are just about to have a heart attack when, just when you think the whole thing crescendos - BAM! Then, then the exquisitely envisioned distillation of that Ringu tapestry blazes onto the screen with a full on seven channel aural assault! You would think that this would become tiring, but it doesn't. It doesn't because there is more to the story than cheap thrills. Shutter's story is a mystery unravelling, facets of the whole movie converging so that, by the end, they form into a crisp, symmetrical finale that leaves the watcher completely satisfied.
Frankly, this is one of the best movies I have seen in quite some time. It would have been a 10, if it weren't for that same old “ghost” but, my word, it's handled well.