After a party with his friends, a young photographer and his girlfriend are involved in an accident. Their car hits a girl standing in the middle of the road and, panicked, they drive home, leaving her for dead. But the next time he gets some photographs developed, there’s something weird in them – a swirling white light hovering in most of the photos, occasionally obscuring faces or forming ominous nooses around their necks. One by one, the people who were at the party that night start dying, apparently killing themselves, until the main couple are the only ones left. Menaced by a ghostly woman with long black hair who crawls all over the place, including on the ceiling, the couple try to piece together the last days of the dead girl’s life in order to put her to rest, and save themselves.
I’m going to save that paragraph to my hard drive, ready to bring it out and copy and paste it into a review of the next time I put myself through one of these tedious Ring-clones. See, I didn’t put any character names in, or even any nationalities, so it’s ready to serve as a plot summary whether I’m reviewing one of the American remakes, or the newest soggy dead girl movie out of Japan, Korea, or Mexico. Shutter is actually a Thai film, but you’d never know; it’s virtually identical to Ring or Ju-on. The ghost looks identical; the plot is identical; and the death-in-the-photo device is old, old, old. It’s even been overused in movies without the ghosts of wronged women in them (The Omen and Final Destination 3, off the top of my head) so it’s got to be about time to retire this particular trope.
There really is nothing new here at all. Shutter boasts a sequence in a darkroom that’s been replicated in The Grudge 2, which is either because someone working on that movie saw Shutter, or because there are only so many places in everyday life where a soggy dead girl could realistically manifest before things start getting silly (argh! Drinks machine! Contact lens solution! PUDDLES!).
There’s another moment that could have been cut and pasted straight out of Kairo, or Suicide Club, or The Grudge. Actually, there’s a sequence in the movie that has actually been depicted in stone on the outside of Bath cathedral a couple of hundred years ago, that’s how stale it is. The kept-for-last revelation that not only did the protagonist kill the ghost, but also dated her, humiliated her, and let his friends rape her when she was alive, is just overkill – the rape-revenge device is even older than all the other conventions Shutter trots out.
It’s difficult to imagine what it must have been like working on this movie: making films is a long and arduous business, so how can you justify to yourself working that hard to make something so painfully derivative? The only possible driving force must be money; any sane person would think that the soggy dead girl trend has been going on for so long that surely, surely the well must be dry by now, but the film release schedule for 2008 paints a different picture. Remakes of The Eye, A Tale of Two Sisters, and One Missed Call jostle for position, along with a remake of, you guessed it, Shutter itself.
Thing is, I’ve actually got a lot more patience for this particular type of horror than most, so when even I don’t find a crawling, creaking, messy-haired ghost scary any more, how can this many movies find a market for themselves? It’s been six years since The Ring, people. Let’s let that poor dead girl dry herself off and rest in peace now, yeah?
(The only extras included on the DVD are trailers for other movies, which isn’t something that deserves to be classified as an “extra”, since it’s just an advert. Hmph.)