Shutter April 21, 2022
1 Hr., 37 Mins.
ome photos are more memorable for the accidental oddities they capture than the subjects to which they’re hoping to do justice. The goofy expression a passerby is making while unwittingly striding into the frame; an object in the background creating the illusion of an extra body part; a spot of strange lighting that by chance illuminates something no one posing in the picture had noticed taking up space.
These are innocuous mishaps; sometimes they’re even charming. Shutter, the debut film from directing duo Banjong Pisanthanakun and Parkpoom Wongpoom, presents a creepy alternative. What if your camera unintentionally confirmed something more sinister — like proof of a haunting?
The film’s protagonist — a young photographer named Tun (Ananda Everingham) — doesn’t need to do much guessing to figure out what the strange white wisps and apparition-like shapes appearing in his images of late might be related to. Early on in the film, Tun and his girlfriend, Jane (Natthaweeranuch Thongmee), hit a young woman while driving back from a wedding — an accident Tun convinces Jane, who’s behind the wheel, to drive away from and refrain from reporting. The eldritch sights soon interrupting nearly all of Tun’s photography afterward, though, suggest Tun and Jane haven’t at all gotten away scot-free. The increasing suicides of people involved in the wedding party are telling, too.
How exactly this ostensible ghost will go about conclusively soothing her unsettled soul doesn’t merely have to do with the hit-and-run, it turns out; Pisanthanakun and Wongpoom, who co-wrote the screenplay with Sopon Sukdapisit, gradually — which is also to say with a healthy heaping of painful tension — disclose that Tun and many wedding-party members may actually have a previous connection to the victim, and not in a way likely to bode well for their survival.
This final twist in the story finds Shutter at its best, and paves the way for some of its most deftly skin-crawling set pieces. While the first couple acts are efficiently eerie, if a little monotonous in their approach to amass dread (Shutter, a Thai production, can at times feel like a copy of a copy of the kind of stringy-haired ghost girl-driven J-horror films that were by 2004 losing some of their novelty), the movie’s last stretch uncovers another stratum of monstrousness within our leads that’s both frighteningly feasible and invigoratingly shakes up an otherwise familiar narrative arc, even if they make use of an unveiled trauma a bit oversimply. A huge hit in Thailand, Shutter launched the careers of its directors (though more so Pisanthanakun) and has persisted as a ghost story that, if not quite original, has enough in its bag of tricks to challenge some expectations of redundancy we initially have for it. B