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NOTE: Please be aware that this DVD is a Hong Kong import and is coded for Region 3 DVD players. In order to view this DVD, you'll have to have either a Region 3 coded or Region Free DVD player. It will not play in standard Region 1 North American DVD players.
Tun (Ananda Everingham) works as a photographer, fresh out of college. He and his girlfriend, Jane (Natthaweeranuch Thongmee), are driving home one night when they run over a girl who suddenly appears in the middle of the road out of nowhere – or at least they think they do. Rather than get out of the car and make sure she's okay, the hightail it out of there to avoid any trouble with the law.
A day or two later and Tun is taking pictures at the school's graduation ceremony. When he takes the film in to be developed, he's confused by some white, smoky images that appear on almost all of the pictures, and by what appears to be a spectral face in the background of a shot he took in front of one of the more prominent buildings on campus. At first he thinks that the pictures weren't developed right but when he finds that these images appear on the negatives as well as the prints, he starts to think that something might up amiss.
As Tun finds more and more unusual instances occuring with his photography, Jane sets out to try and figure out where these images are coming from and why. As the manifestations become stronger, she begins to piece things together bit by bit until she finds out that there's a lot more to this than Tun is letting on and that the spirit that is haunting them is somehow tied to his not too distant past.
Shutter is very derivative of a few of the more popular Japanese ghost stories that have hauled in the big box office bucks the last few years. As you're watching the film, it will conjure up memories of Hideo Nakata's Ring and Takashi Shimizu's Ju-On: the Grudge. A creepy young Asian woman with long black hair does play a large part in all of the ghastly proceedings, and a few of the scares are lifted from those earlier films. That being said, Shutter manages to carve out its own special little place in and amongst the other multitudinous entries in the genre by being smart enough to be interesting and by making us care enough about the characters to really react when the scares hit.
Directed by Thai filmmakers Banjong Pisanthanakun and Parkpoom Wongpoom, the movie has plenty of style and even more atmosphere. They make very nice use of the dark room and studio apartment and are able to conjure up a very effective atmosphere of claustrophobia in a couple of scenes, most notably when the ghost manifests in a school laboratory and, in the horrific highlight of the film, when the spirit wreaks havoc in Tun's studio shortly after he completes some wedding portraits.
Ananda Everingham and particularly Natthaweeranuch Thongmee do a great job as the male and female leads respectively, and Achita Sikaman is in fine form as the wayward phantom in need of vindication. All three performers are suitably believable and Thongmee specifically does a very good job of portraying the confusion and mixed emotions that her character would be experiencing if one were to go through similar events in real life.
Shutter is presented in a good but not great 1.85.1 anamorphic widescreen transfer. Obviously taken from a PAL source and converted over to NTSC for this release, there are a few scenes where there is some very slight ghosting evident on the image. The colors look a bit flat but I'm quite certain that this was a stylistic choice and isn't a problem with the authoring. Also worth mentioning is that a few scenes blur a slight bit when things move quickly. This may sound horrible but really it's pretty minor. Most of the time the image is pretty solid. There's a surprising level of detail present throughout the movie and the black levels, which play a really, really big role in the movie, stay strong throughout. There are no problems with mpeg compression and I only really grimaced at on glaring instance of edge enhancement.
You've got your choice of watching the film with one of three audio options, all of which are in their native Thai language – DTS-ES, Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround Sound, and Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround Sound. Optional subtitles are available in traditional Chinese, Simplified Chinese, and English. The Surround Sound mixes on this disc are great. Both the Dolby Digital and DTS mixes are of very nice quality and use the rear surround channels very wisely to really enhance a few of the creepier scenes in the film (the studio/flash in the dark scene immediately comes to mind). The dialogue is balanced very nicely against the background music and the sound effects and is always clear and coherent. The English subtitles are easy to read and didn't contain a single typographical error.
First and foremost, I want to point out how nice it is to find a Hong Kong import disc that has all if the supplements subtitled in English. Let's hope this is a trend that continues!
What's one the disc aside from the film itself? First up is a short featurette with the awkward title of Scoop In The Picture gives us a brief rundown on spirit photography and how ghosts appear on film. Seeing as this is the main theme of the film it's a rather appropriate little bit to se here and it is quite interesting – but it should have been longer. With such a brief running time (it's only a couple of minutes long) it feels like they're really just glossing over the surface when there were so many different things that they could have included on this feature that were touched on in the film.
There is also a brief (under two minutes) behind the scenes featurette that takes a look at the making of the film, as well as interviews with the two leads and the director (again, very brief) in which they talk about the themes and content of the film.
Finally, three different trailers for Shutter have been included on the DVD as well. Worth noting is that the packaging comes with a little red gel that, when you hold it over the back of the box, reveals a little ghost hidden in some of the imagery. A nice touch.
While Shutter is at times very reminiscent of both Ju-On and Ring it still manages to serve as a noteworthy entry in the Asian horror universe. While it isn't the most original film to hit screens lately it is really well made and it does provide a couple of really fun creepy moments. The DVD looks good and sounds great even if the extra features aren't what they could have been. Recommended.
Ian lives in NYC with his wife where he writes for DVD Talk, runs Rock! Shock! Pop!. He likes NYC a lot, even if it is expensive and loud.