Poor Joshua Jackson, the guy just can’t catch a break in Hollywood. As the leading light of TV series Dawson’s Creek, Jackson’s career path was set for super-stardom and yet things just haven't fallen into place. Take Shutter for example, a remake of a Thai horror film that should have been a hit. It wasn’t. It’s not even that it’s a bad film, it just lacks that certain something - and that could be the problem with its leading man as well.
A newly married couple spend their honeymoon in Japan, which conveniently also happens to be where they decide to spend the rest of their lives together. Ben (Jackson) is a successful fashion photographer and has just got a lucrative contract, and his wife Jane (Taylor) is completely supportive. But on their first night there, while driving on a poorly-lit country road, they hit a woman and crash. As Jane regains consciousness she quickly goes to save the woman, but no one is there. The couple continue about their lives but strange things begin to happen when Jane notices that every picture she has taken appears to show ghostly images. She finds herself believing in a phenomenon known as spirit photography, which apparently shows the dead trying to make contact with the living. Convinced that it is the woman she ran over Jane desperately tries to find out who the woman was, and what she wants.
The setup of the film requires a certain level of ignorance of the "J-horror" genre. Like The Ring and The Grudge before it, the film's biggest problem is location. Shutter opts for the latter’s approach of moving the majority of the action to Japan, but this merely brings up the most obvious of questions — if the setting is so crucial to a film like this, then why remake it at all? Surely the cultural identity is just as key — spirit photography is very popular in Japan, for example — so why place an American couple in the middle of the story?
To be fair, Shutter is a lesser-known movie and the story itself works well. Jackson and in particular Taylor are very good. Jane may be prone to the "walking down the dark corridor rather than running in the opposite direction" syndrome common to all genre films, but at least Taylor makes a convincing and likeable heroine. The film has a much darker edge in the latter half, and it is as Jackson’s character unravels that we see something original in this sort of film — the male character being unable to save the day, although common in J-horror, is still relatively rare in Hollywood.
So it looks good, the acting is fine, the story is interesting enough; so what’s the problem? Unfortunately, somewhere along the line director Ochiai and writer Dawson forgot to put in the frights. Barely a pulse is raised throughout the film’s short runtime, making Shutter a competent but forgettable experience.