Shutter (Masayuki Ochiai, 2008)
You know, it's funny reading IMDB commentary on remakes of Asian horror films; it often seems like half the commenters are unaware the movie is a remake, and the other half are attacking the movie for things that are identical to the original film and talking about how bad they're messed up in the remake. It makes you wonder if anyone has seen either version. Well, I have. Both of them, in fact. And for an American remake, Shutter is actually not awful. Like most American remakes of Asian horror films, however, it is entirely unnecessary.
Ochiai, whose last film was the highly underrated Infection, comes eastward to direct this remake of the 2004 Thai film of the same name. In this version, which is relatively faithful to the original, a photographer named Ben Shaw (Fringe's Joshua Jackson) and his new wife (Transformers' Rachael Taylor) go back to Ben's old stomping grounds in Tokyo for Ben to take a photography assignment. On the way to the cabin where they're going to spend their honeymoon, Jane sees a woman in the middle of the road and hits her. When the police come, however, they can find no trace of her. Soon she starts turning up in every photograph the two of them take, and Jane realizes she has to figure out who the woman is and why she's stalking them before things turn fatal.
Ochiai is a very competent director, as Infection showed, and unlike many imported directors, being in Hollywood seems to have done nothing to suppress his abilities; Shutter is a well-executed movie in almost every regard. (There will be some scenes that people who have seen the original will understand better than people who didn't; the movie's shorter running time is to blame, given that otherwise the film is almost slavishly faithful, save a change of location and a change in the ethnicity of the main characters.) The only problem? Trying to figure out why Roy Lee, the entrepreneur behind at least a quarter of the remakes (both Asian and non-) to come out of Hollywood in the seven years since the Ring remake, persists in not understanding that simply releasing the Asian films theatrically in America will make him just as much money. Probably more, given that in most cases, the original films are far better than the remakes. (And yet when we do get foreign horror films theatrically released in America, we get such overrated and undertalented crap as Haute Tension, one of the worst movies of the past decade, and Darkness.) Sure, there's the small subset of the moviegoing populace who won't sit still for subtitles. (That's why there were so many dubbed films in the seventies; really, you could release it both ways, given how many movies play on multiple screens in the same theatre these days, and let the customer choose.) But just skimming the reviews for these movies, and reading what people have to say about them on message boards all over the Internet, should be telegraphing to Roy Lee and his compatriots that most of us would much rather have a chance to see the originals on the big screen. And really, are you going to tell me the twenty-five mil Shutter made in America during its theatrical run even came close to covering production costs?
Please, sir, just give us the originals. I bet you'd make a lot more money that way, and really, isn't that what you're all about? Masayuki Ochiai could have been working on another movie all this time, and it would probably have been better. **