Dirs: Parkpoom Wongpoom,Banjong Pisanthanakun. Thai. 2004. 95mins.
The Shutter is a film happily demonstrating that it is possibleto combine all the familiar staples of the current Japanese-Korean horror boomand still come up with some new chills and an entertaining picture.
A low-budget ghost picturefrom Thailand, the film follows a couple of twenty-somethings who discoverdisturbing images in their class photographs. While it screams out genre-labelvideo release and remake potential in the West, it could comfortably dotheatrical business in Asia. It could also happily play at those festivals whichplatform commercial fare from unexpected and non-English-language sources.
In its native Thailand it proved to be thebiggest film of 2004 - and genre-fans around the world are unlikely to bescared off. More still would respond to a remake with a couple of risingB-listers in the youth-friendly lead roles. Although the original film has yetto find itself a sales agent, Ring-promoter Vertigo Entertainment isalready hawking the remake package while Focus Features at press time is rumoured to be seeking a North American deal.
Cleverly, the story beginswith a slightly diversionary touch as the pair run over a young woman on adeserted country road at night. Having failed to provide help, they guiltilyassume a direct causal link between the bloody accident and the ghosting thatsoon starts to appear on some of Ton (Everingham), the photographer's ownpictures.
The police and hospitals,however, have no record of a death or injury at that spot. And in a creepyapartment Jane (Thongmee) discovers the source of their problems to be a womanwho is the ex-girlfriend of her lover.
Long before they pay a visitto the girl's mother, the scare factor has been slowly ratcheted up. There iseverything from rattled door knobs and inexplicable shadows to long, swishingblack hair and impossible phone calls.
The girl (Sikamana) is ofcourse dead, but her spirit is troubled and still wandering. Ton is forced toadmit that he ditched the girl even though she was desperately in love with himat the time and that she had been ostracised by his classmates, who it turnsout have now all committed suicide.
As the haunting becomes morefull-on, the directing duo for good measure throw in chases, nightmare dreams andghoulish faces attached to slithering, reptilian bodies.
The script istightly-written and well-paced with time for a good, tension-relieving joke ina countryside toilet. It finishes off with a further revelation about Ton and afine twist that will be new to most western audiences.
Performances are both finewith Everingham as Ton perhaps the more appealing and more multi-faceted.Visuals and effects are a shade darker and grainier than might be expected froma 35mm originated picture that was two years in the making.
What The Shutter saysabout its two directors is not clear cut. The two first-timers apparentlyshared all duties and in Gilbert & George fashion only shot what theyagreed on. For their next projects they will be going their separate ways; onehas a black comedy in the works, the other a political drama.
Prod cos/int'l sales: GMM Picture Phenomena Motion Picture, GMM Tai HubCompany
Exec prods: PaiboonDamrongchaitham, Boosaba Daoreng
Prod: Yoophet Sudsawad
Scr: Wongpoom, Pisanthanakun andSophon Sakdapisit
Eds: Manoop Boonwipas, LeeChatametickool
Cine: Niramon Ross
Prod des: Suras Kardeeroj
Main cast: Ananda Everingham,Natthaweeranuch Thongmee, Achita Sikamana