After a drinking session with his friends, Tun and his girlfriend Jane hit the road. They are driving through a dark highway when an obscure figure in a dress crosses their way. The car goes to a halt, Jane tries to step out, but Tun dissuades her. They flee, but they return to the scene the next day, only to be told by the traffic police that there is no body or a reported accident.
Days later, shadows and fogs turn up at their photographs. Tun's drinking buddies commit suicide one by one. How are they related?
The distortions can be explained away as bad film, but what about those taken by Polaroid?
Shutter (2004) is a movie from Thailand that should be included in film syllabi everywhere. The makers have a vision of what they want to say, and they sure know how to say it. See how a ghost pursues Tun on a fire escape ladder, or how a friend of his jumps to his death from a building.
Moreover, this is one movie with no unnecessary shots or scenes. Everything is needed. Yes, even the bathroom scene. It not only leavens the proceedings with humor, but it also makes a sly characterization of the producing country.
Shutter is also laced with spirituality, and I'm not just referring to scenes in the temple or burial beliefs. The concept of justice, of the innocence of children, and the immutability of karma. And love that endures: in Jane's case, and Natre's, and yes, even in the case of Natre's mother.
So who is Natre? If you haven't seen it yet, that you have to find out for yourself.
Shutter knows its metaphors and places them well. The praying mantis applies not only to Natre, but also to her mother. Because we get to know the mother first, her subplot acts as a foreshadowing of the final reveal.
The twist in the end is also well-earned. The pieces of the puzzle are presented early and when the last piece drops, it's as satisfying a finish as in The Others (2001).
In 2008, Shutter was remade into an American movie, perhaps an inevitability. Starring Joshua Jackson and Rachael Taylor, it was transported into Japan, and henceforth lost all of its original identity without assuming a new one. It is so faithful to the original that it has become almost a shot by shot remake for a good part of the movie.
They could have done away with a lot of the shots, and to cite one sequence: You remember the one where Tun goes into the dark room and receives a call from the other room? In the remake, they show us the new Jane getting out of the apartment, walking around the city, and actually making the call. Comparing the two movies is a lesson in economy and precision.
Also, the new version presents a more helpless version of Natre in Megumi. Where Natre had tried to resist her tormentors with all her might, Megumi was all weakness. Ben even says that Megumi was the one throwing herself at him; where Tun and Natre did share something special. An Asian latching onto an American; the American forcing himself on her; the Asian girl being vengeful. It's tempting to have a political-sexual reading on this.
The remake was a critical and commercial dud, both in theaters and on video. Now that's the immutability of karma.