Monday, July 12, 2010

Review: Shutter (2008)

Director: Masayuki Ochiai
Starring: Joshua Jackson, Rachel Taylor

You know that old myth about how taking a picture steals your soul away? Well, that would still leave you with more heart and feeling than this movie does. Yes, Shutter is another in the line of American remakes of Japanese horror movies, because Americans are just too stupid to watch foreign films and put a little more effort into their movie watching to do such harrowing things as reading subtitles. Gasp! So…yeah. Yeah, that about sums it up.

This movie is just completely soulless and bland. It’s as plastic as a movie gets. It starts off with two airheads getting married, and can you honestly think of a more clich√© and redundant looking movie couple? There’s a saucy blonde with full lips and blue eyes and a perfect figure, and her rugged, buzz-cut husband, white and handsome, a photographer going to Japan for a project. They have absolutely no personalities. They engage in the usual honeymoon necessities like taking pictures at scenic locations and having lots of sex while exchanging witty, empty quips. Get used to them – the movie actually thinks they are worth caring about.

So they go to Japan on a night road and are getting tired. The Female Main Character – or Jane; I literally had to look that up on IMDb to remember, her character was so generic – takes her eyes off the road and then suddenly hits a girl who walks in front of the car, causing them to swerve around in circles until they hit a tree and apparently pass out for hours. When they wake up, there is no sign of the girl at all…spooked yet? Yeah, me neither.

So we get introduced to some more stock cardboard cutouts of characters that also don’t have any real personalities or distinctions to them…aside from having names. There’s Seiko, who is Ben’s assistant and who also acts flirty towards just about everyone, including her ex boyfriend…well, that’s a pointless subplot. And then there’s Bruno and Adam, who are Ben’s best friends and partners. Not much to say there, except that Adam acts like some kind of weird pedophile or something…

Ben and Jane…god, how much more generic names can you get? It’s like they just forgot they had to name these characters until the last second and had to pull them out of a hat as an afterthought. It wouldn’t be such a big deal, but it just feels so half assed, and in no small part in conjunction with the character writing, too. These are the kinds of names every generic character in every damn dime a dozen thriller flick gets just to move a story along, and they usually signify a huge lack of development and thought put into them as people. Can’t you assholes just put a little more thought into this? Here’s a tip to start you off: If you don’t find them interesting and can’t name any specific things that make them unique as people, TRY HARDER.

Anyway! Ben and Jane get their new living quarters. After Bruno leaves them, they immediately start having sex and apparently, if the editing serves correctly, do not stop until nightfall. The next day, Jane shows Seiko some of Ben’s pictures which had ghostly images in them, and without blinking an eye Jane is referenced to a ‘spirit photography’ group led by her ex boyfriend, whom she still flirts with heavily for no reason – are we supposed to care? My main problem with this is that it’s handled so trivially – Seiko tells her about a spirit photography group with the same casual tone as talking about some new nail salon, or something.

The rest of the movie is spent with a lot of half-assed nothing as Jane plays amateur sleuth and tries to find out what’s going on with the ghostly picture mistakes. She visits psychics, tries taking pictures and seeing what happens and other stuff. So it’s kind of like Lost in Translation, except instead of a bored and lonely newlywed in Japan meeting a depressed Bill Murray, she’s trying to be a paranormal investigator…or a Ghostbuster. It’s all coming together now!

Sigh. Sorry. I’ve been watching this movie for too damn long. It’s boring me so much that I have to create such whimsical fantasies to keep me entertained. Goddamn, there’s just nothing of interest. There’s one really annoying part where it shows Ben getting attacked by something in the dark with these really annoying flashes of light interspersed every two or three seconds, but otherwise, nothing of note. Oh, the two best friends die in grotesque ways. Real surprise there…god, I’m bored.

The end of the movie basically concludes with Jane finding out the big revelation that – shock and awe! – Ben and his buddies had to do with the rape and subsequent death of the girl who has been haunting them! Apparently she was an old romantic flame of his who went crazy after her father died or something, and started following him everywhere and getting needy and desperate. Instead of just doing the logical thing and, oh, I don’t know, GETTING HER SOME HELP or something, they decided to slip her date rape drugs and take pictures of her in incriminating or embarrassing positions. So they could…because she…well, honestly, there is no reason for it. I got nothing.

I mean what the hell? You’re blackmailing a person with severe emotional problems to stay away from you? What kind of fucked up logic is that? You couldn’t just sit down with her and explain it calmly? What makes you even think she’ll listen to any kind of threat or blackmailing when she’s as hell-bent as he says she was? And he never even explains what she did that was so crazy or weird in the first place. So she followed him around and didn’t want him to leave her; so what? Seems like a pretty normal response to emotional trauma to me. Maybe if these characters were more fleshed out and developed I could believe it, but as is, this is a REALLY stupid plot.

Well, this isn’t even worthy of any more discussion, so…Ben gets killed, and Jane leaves him. Although I’m not exactly sure if it was in that exact order.

Shutter is just a waste of time. I can’t even imagine what kind of audience this is supposed to appeal to, and it’s just confused and dull all around, like a defective butter knife. The characters are lame beyond belief, the plot is boring and the whole thing just doesn’t seem like anybody was actually trying. Ooh, so it’s a symbolic revenge story about people getting their comeuppance for their sins in the past? So fucking what? This kind of third-rate, phoned-in storytelling is just inexcusable with the big budget this movie obviously had. Go watch Jacob’s Ladder instead.