Shutter (2004) by Banjong Pisanthanakun and Parkpoom Wongpoom

Αn interesting box office hit in the style of J-horror

By Lyberis Dion


"Shutter," the commercially successful Thai horror film that has spawned three remakes, among which an American one that received mostly negative reviews but was a huge box office success, has divided critics since it was first screened at the Bangkok International Film Festival. However, audiences around the world seem to love it and it has been heralded by many as one of the greatest Asian horror films of the 21st century. I personally believe that "Shutter" offers a few elements to be considered a cut above the rest, but ultimately fails to overcome its overabundance of clichés and lack of compelling scares.

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After a long night of drinking with friends, Tun and Jane, a young couple, hit a woman with their car while returning home and they flee the scene of the accident. The following days, many bizarre happenings occur and they start noticing some strange shadows in many of Tun’s photos. The protagonists will soon realize that nothing is what it seems and that you can never really escape your past.


Although the premise may sound too simplistic to some, the story is filled with enough clever twists and creepy plot points. Unfortunately, that’s one of the very few great things about "Shutter." The unexpected turns the movie takes, the originality with which the characters have been developed and the subtle brilliance of the final plot twist help the film overcome some very misguided choices, rescuing it from becoming a by- the numbers horror movie.

"Shutter" is Banjong Pisanthanakun and Parkpoom Wongpoom’s first film and, sadly, it is more than obvious. Alfred Hitchcock once said that there is no terror in the bang, only in the anticipation of it, a belief he apparently doesn’t share with these two frequent collaborators if you take into consideration their obvious impatience to get to the disappointingly unscary stuff as soon as possible. They use many already famous stylistic choices when it comes to e.g. the appearance of the ghost and, sometimes, it just looks like a straight ripoff from movies like "Ringu," "Ju-on"’ and its sequel.

The main problem with "Shutter" is that it uses uneventful and extremely unnecessary jump scares very early on and it just keeps on going, without providing the audience with one genuinely terrifying moment and, as a result, losing their interest. I am sorry that I have to express my perception of the first half so harshly, because the movie actually showcases signs of greatness at the very good second half (for example, the scene where Tun tries to descend a hotel staircase and, for some reason, just can’t seem able to do, it is expertly executed). Actually, it is so good- among other scenes- that makes you angry that these two extremely talented directors chose to rely heavily on already known horror film tactics. Unfortunately, these scattered moments are just barely enough to redeem the film, let alone mark it as a future horror classic. The poorly staged frights of the first half are more than jarring and condescend the masterfully written and directed second half.


The duo made a horror film three years after "Shutter," called "Alone," which marks a significant improvement over their debut feature and it proves that the two directors are not only capable auteurs of the horror genre but also among the best Thai horror fiction directors working at the moment.

"Shutter" features a typically magnificent central performance from Ananda Everingham in his breakout role, who portrays the flawed Tun with compassion, and an equally terrifying and sympathetic turn from Achita Sikamana. Sadly, Natthaweeranuch Thongmee can’t hold a candle to her co-stars and performs the role of Jane in an annoyingly inept way, without demonstrating any particular acting skill.

Niramon Ross’ cinematography makes "Shutter" a singular atmospheric horror experience, but it is the only technical aspect of the film that doesn’t feel and look completely amateurish. Chatchai Pongprapaphan, who is famous for his epic work in the big-budgeted "Warlords," composed a score so mind-bogglingly intrusive that at times it is just distracting noise, the visual effects team is just recycling imagery from better films and the sound effects that accompany the scarier parts of the film are, at times, so loud and appallingly misused that they end up turning a supposedly terrifying scene into a painful one

"Shutter" is not a bad film. The debut feature of two very talented visionaries of the horror genre, a suitably creepy and original script, a couple of compelling performances and an atmospheric feel make it a must-see for every horror film aficionado. But due to its overburdening flaws and complete lack of fresh chills, it never reaches its full potential. Despite all that, the film’s greatest accomplishment is the fact that it managed to put Thai horror cinema on the map and helped many great and scary little films to be discovered and appreciated from a much wider audience.


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Asian Film Vault: Shutter (2004) by Banjong Pisanthanakun and Parkpoom Wongpoom
Shutter (2004) by Banjong Pisanthanakun and Parkpoom Wongpoom
Αn interesting box office hit in the style of J-horror
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