If there was any figure in Asian horror who could give The Ring’s Sadako a run for her money, it would have to be Natre of Shutter. This 2004 Thai film is in my opinion, one of the best horror films in Asia to date not only because of its scary female lead but because of the general air of creepiness that is consistent in the entire movie. It is guaranteed to haunt even the most hardened horror fanatic way after the movie is over.
Shutter’s plot revolves around a young photographer Tum (Ananda Everingham) and his girlfriend Jane (Natthaweeranuch Thongmee) who attend a reunion with Tum’s school buddies and accidentally hit a woman with their car on their way home. Opting to run rather than check if the woman survived the accident, the couple is haunted by supernatural events in the following weeks that they believe is connected to the woman they left for dead. Unbeknownst to them, the haunting is actually linked to a dark secret from Tum’s past, and as the story progresses, the spirit grows stronger and more aggressive. The couple is left with no choice but to get to the bottom of the mystery in a race to save their lives, with Tum’s gang already picked off one by one, dead from unexplained suicides.
Shutter was a slow starter. The early part of the movie was devoted to a lot of dialogue and establishing that there was indeed something weird going on. The first part tackles folklore about spirits and their connection to the living and generally how to set their souls to rest and it got kind of boring. But then, the mystery started to unfold. Clues were given for the couple to follow, and the movie began to come alive with gusto. The secret is revealed gradually and Tum and Jane start connect the events to Tum’s old flame Natre, a vengeful spirit who is out for revenge for an unknown offense.
The movie’s brilliance lies in its strategic use of pregnant pauses, which is punctuated by scenes with great shock value. The scoring is also very strong as it subtly provides the tones for the scenes. It is mostly quiet and eerie and crescendos as the horror escalates, adding to the chill factor that the supernatural events depict, making the audience’s feelings consistent with what is being shown on screen. As for the cinematography and the setting of the film, it is very creepy and one would have to think that no one in their right mind would willingly go to the places that the leads go to alone at night, so they are actually in for whatever is in store. But this too, is a great touch for the filmmakers as they do not set up for the predictable route. I saw the film three times and I still get a jolt every time.
Shutter is a combination of old school and new school. The story approach is very new school while the effects are pretty classic. The special effects are far inferior compared to Hollywood but it manages to deliver the same whopper to its audiences by utilizing graphic depictions of blood and gore, as well as excellent make up. Leave us not forget the stars of the movie, who delivered the emotions of sheer fright with an abandon that leaves no room for vanity. Perhaps, it was the combination of all these that made for such a great scary movie.
As the final conclusion unfolds, goosebumps are completely guaranteed. Sad to say, the Shutter Hollywood remake (2008) did not hold a candle to the original.