Shutter, directed by Banjong Pisanthanakun and Parkpoom Wongpoom, 2004

Once I actually bought it, it took me a while to get around to watching it, but it's worth the wait. I'm a huge fan of the new wave of Asian cinema, but admittedly my knowledge of the Thai scene is extremely limited so when I heard that their take on the now cliched Asian ghost story was pretty sturdy, I decided to check it out.

While I've taken in my share of the Asian ghost story, a new genre in and of itself, and while I openly gobble up entries, few are very satisfying. I find movies like The Ring or Ju-On, while they often deliver on the freakyed freak, empty because their stories are just boring and uninteresting. Shutter, not so much. It follows a photographer named Tun who starts to see apparitions in his photos, the same person over and over. The departed starts to stalk Tun and his girl, tracing over the familiar territory of the living trying to figure out what they need to do to get the dead to leave them alone, but while the ground may be familar and the scares a little cliched, it stands remarkably strong by the time the credits roll.

It takes all of the ingredients of ghost story predecessors, gathers 'em all up together and plays with that hand and actually wins. It isn't a movie that takes all the preconcieved notions about the genre and turns them on their head, but it pays them enough respect that if anything is cliched it's not bothersome. You won't crap your pants out of fear, but it'll certainly tweak your nerves throughout

The acting is actually very enjoyable and Ananda Everingham who plays Tun is a great alternative to the estrogen driven ghost stories of the past 5 years or so. The difference is incredibly subtle, but there is a sizeable difference in choosing the sex of a ghost story's protagonist. Going with a female as the lead, which is the trend these days, banks on fragility for fear. However, going with a male throws fragility out the window and you're left with more of a feeling that the character must have done something to deserve this, whereas a female leaves you thinking that she is innocent and just being tortured. This isn't an arguement about males being stronger than females, it's just the economy of character choice that I see consistent in ghost stories as of late. The film has a story and characters that you'll actually find investment in, as opposed to something like Phone or the broken narrative Ju-On series.

Shutter, while not the best bet when it comes to the tried Asian ghost story field, is certainly worth your time. I put it in a second place as my favorite in the arena, shadowed only by the highly enjoyable and scary as The Eye. It subscribes to the thought that build up scares aren't as scary as fragments of things that are just plain creepy, which I don't agree with, but it works well with what it's got going on.

4 out of 5

The One Sentence Review - Shutter walks on cliched ground, but unlike handfuls of it's predecessor's works very well and is worthy of your attention.
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