Blu-ray
Give it a Rent
2.5 stars
Amazon
$8.37
Usually ships in 24 hours Buy Now»
Overall Grade
2.5 stars

(click linked text below to jump to related section of the review)

The Movie Itself
2.5 Stars
HD Video Quality
3 Stars
HD Audio Quality
2.5 Stars
Supplements
2.5 Stars
High-Def Extras
0 Stars
Bottom Line
Give it a Rent

Shutter

Street Date:
July 15th, 2008
Reviewed by:
Peter Bracke
Review Date: 1
July 16th, 2008
Movie Release Year:
2008
Studio:
Fox Home Entertainment
Length:
0 Minutes
MPAA Rating:
Unrated
Release Country
United States

The Movie Itself: Our Reviewer's Take

Yes, horror fans, 'Shutter' is just what you needed -- yet another pointless Hollywood remake of an Asian scare-flick that wasn't all that great to begin with. After justifiable remakes of genuine hits such as 'The Ring' and 'The Grudge' were followed en masse by updates of more negligible properties like 'Dark Water' and 'One Missed Call,' you'd think Hollywood would just let the fallow genre finally die a peaceful death, but no. 'Shutter' is not an altogether terrible film, it's just an unnecessary one -- it has nothing new to say about anything, let alone the horror genre.

In 'Shutter,' ex-'Dawson's Creek' alum Joshua Jackson finally gets to topline his own horror film, starring as newlywed Ben, a photographer who's taking his wife Jane (Rachel Taylor) on a honeymoon in Japan. Things quickly go awry when Jane accidentally runs over a Japanese woman late one night, though no body is ever found. Ben then finds that all the pictures from a recent glossy shoot have odd streaks of light on them -- leading Jane to think that the aberrations are actually "spirit photography," aka a phenomenon where the other side makes its presence known thanks to Kodak. Soon, Ben and Jane's relationship unravels as he balks at the situation, leaving her to plumb the dark secrets of the horrible accident to their horrifying conclusion.

'Shutter'' is an odd update. It jettisons some of the scariest sequences in the original film (which as an aside was actually a Thai production, not Japanese) for more character development, but we don't care all that much about Ben and Jane to begin with. Further reducing the film's effectiveness is the fact that the ghost apparitions were a lot creepier in the original 'Shutter.' Here, we get yet more generic ghost-people leftovers, who all look like variations on the blue screaming people in 'The Grudge.' 'Shutter' also has suffers from plodding pacing and takes itself much too seriously -- but unlike 'The Ring,' where such a grim tone created tension as the plot delivered a strong climax. 'Shutter' just lacks drive as it builds towards a revelation that takes so long to come, and happens so quickly, that it almost seems arbitrary. Solemnity does little when we have no faith that the story is going anywhere.

Saving the film from complete tedium are a few strong, broad strokes. The concept of spirit photography is potentially intriguing, and the film at least takes it seriously enough that it never condescends. Jackson and Taylor also give commendable performances, lending an aura of believability to the proceedings -- for once, the protagonists are at least fairly likable. The film's revelation of the core mysteries is also actually interesting. Again, it feels too abrupt in terms of pacing, but seeing as the climaxes of these types of movies are often so disappointing, at least in 'Shutter' the story points are resolved in a fairly logical and satisfying manner.

Alas, even with a few good points, 'Shutter' is an American remake that really doesn't add anything to the original. It's a good-looking film with some nice performances, and it's clear the filmmakers respected the source material. But being neither terrifying nor particularly thrilling, 'Shutter' is just an OK horror film with little to differentiate it from the pack. Fans of the genre might find enough enjoyment here to warrant a rental, but all others will feel it lacks focus.

The Video: Sizing Up the Picture

Fox delivers 'Shutter' in a 1080p/AVC MPEG-4 encode. This is another schizophrenic horror flick that deliberately tweaks the spooky bits with lots of visual effects and leaves the everyday scenes relatively natural. Unfortunately, neither half is all that impressive, though 'Shutter' never looks bad.

The scary stuff is whacked out. Contrast is way hot, colors are oversaturated, and the image is quite grainy/noisy. By contrast, sequences of normality are more balanced, with a warmer palette and generally pleasing fleshtones. At least blacks throughout are consistent, and detail is usually strong. Depth wavers, however, and darker scenes suffer from a steep black crush that renders fine textures moot. The encode is clean, with only some slight motion artifacts apparent. 'Shutter' won't win any high-def image awards, but it's fine considering the material.

The Audio: Rating the Sound

To go along with the overbaked visuals, 'Shutter' sounds as though it was mixed in a blender. The shock sound effects are so damn loud in this flick, I seriously needed earplugs.

Fox provides a DTS-HD Lossless Master Audio 5.1 Surround track at 48kHz/24-bit. Things seemed fine at first, with healthy dynamics, some nice punchy bass, and a fairly hefty surround presence. Then the first big scary scene started, and I was almost rocked out of my chair. I was constantly on edge for the rest of the movie, not because it was scary, but because I was afraid of the next big moment when my eardrums were gonna bleed. I ended up just keeping my volume down and watching the subtitles. Which is too bad, because moments of subtlety were effective, particularly some nice use of score bleed and a couple of neat moments when the music and effects were well-integrated in the rears, heightening the mood. Too bad such meager moments of effectiveness are all but wiped out by such awful volume balance issues. You've been warned.

The Supplements: Digging Into the Good Stuff

'Shutter' hits Blu-ray day-and-date with the standard DVD, and both include quite a number of bulletpoints on the back of the box. Too bad this is another case of quantity over quality -- all of these poor-quality, 480p/i/MPEG-2 featurettes and vignettes are vapid to the point of abstraction. Add to that tons of film clip padding, and you have about five minutes of worthwhile material. (Subtitle options are provided in

  • Audio Commentary - Due to his inability to speak English, director Masayuki Ochiai was unable to take part -- so we're left with production executive Alex Sundell, screenwriter Luke Dawson and actress Rachael Taylor. Unfortunately, it makes for a poor commentary. Far too much time is spent either in silence or discussing the obvious. Production stories (mostly from Taylor) are surface level at best, and Dawson doesn't provide much of interest in terms of adapting the original Japanese film for American audiences. This is skippable.
  • Featurettes (SD, 18 minutes) - Since these five sliced-up EPK shorts are all so lousy (and cheaply photographed), I'm lumping them all together in one bulletpoint. "A Ghost in the Lens" (8 minutes) is a series of B&W interviews with Taylor, Joshua Jackson, producer Roy Lee and others, giving us a brief intro to the basics of the film and story. "A Cultural Divide: Shooting in Japan" (9 minutes) explains the lengths needed to shoot the film in Japan with American actors and a director who can't speak a lick of English. "The Director: Masayuki Ochiai" (9 minutes) at last gives us some subtitled thoughts from Ochiai. "A Conversation with Luke Dawson" (6 minutes) is just what its title implies, though you get far more info from the commentary. Finally, "A History of Spirit Photography" (5 minutes) is the only interesting featurette, providing a quasi-plausible explanation for the film's central conceit of "psychokinetic manifestation by film exposure." Uh-huh.
  • Create Your Own Phantom Photo (SD, 4 minutes) - This bizarre how-to consists entirely of a pair of hands at a Mac, creating their own "phantom photo" as seen in the movie. I guess we're supposed to try this at home? Note that there are also "Hunt for the Haunt: Tools & Tips" included, which is a montage of text screens (3 minutes) with further how-to info on tracking your own ghosts.
  • Deleted Scenes (SD, 18 minutes) - Finally, we have eleven excised bits, plus an alternate ending. The rejiggered conclusion is hardly different from the final cut aside from a slight alteration. The rest of the scenes are mere dialogue extensions or worthless exposition (one scene entitled "Jane Eats a Big Mac" is as good as it gets), with no added gore or other fun stuff.

HD Bonus Content: Any Exclusive Goodies in There?

There are no high-def exclusives. Thank god.

Final Thoughts

'Shutter' is far from the worst Asian remake to come out of Hollywood, but far from the best. You'd probably be better off just renting 'The Ring' again, though as a Sunday afternoon time waster, I guess this is serviceable. Same goes for this Blu-ray, which presents the schizophrenic style of the film in a solid video transfer, but the audio levels are way mismatched and the extras are pretty fluffy. 'Shutter' is definitely a rental at best, and even then it's only for horror fans.

Technical Specs

  • Blu-ray
  • BD-50 Dual-Layer Disc

Video Resolution/Codec

  • 1080p/AVC MPEG-4
  • 480p/i/MPEG-2 (Supplements Only)

Aspect Ratio(s)

  • 2.35:1

Audio Formats

  • English DTS-HD Lossless Master Audio 5.1 Surround
  • French Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (640kbps)
  • Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (640kbps)

Subtitles/Captions

  • English SDH
  • French Subtitles
  • Spanish Subtitles
  • Cantonese Subtitles
  • Mandarin Subtitles

Supplements

  • Audio Commentary
  • Featurettes
  • Deleted Scenes

Exclusive HD Content

  • None

All disc reviews at High-Def Digest are completed using the best consumer HD home theater products currently on the market. More about our gear.

Puzzled by the technical jargon in our reviews, or wondering how we assess and rate HD DVD and Blu-ray discs? Learn about our review methodology.