Who would have thought we’d be one day craving Polaroid cameras? Continuing the grand tradition of remaking Asian horror movies (see The Ring, The Eye, The Grudge), along comes Shutter. Set in Tokyo, but starring a pretty white couple so that, you know, an American audience can relate, this East meets West mishmash fails both as an atmospheric piece and as a decent remake.

In this “I know what you did last cliché”, our intrepid pair of newlyweds honeymoon in Japan so that the famous photographer husband, Benjamin Shaw (Joshua Jackson), can get work done while his wife, Jane (Rachael Taylor) comes along for the free ride. The pair are involved in a car accident and the spirit of the woman follows them, mostly by spoiling their photographs.

Essentially a morality tale, once the reason for the haunting is revealed, the movie masks exposition as dialogue and has a “spirit photos? My boyfriend runs a magazine dedicated to that” brand of plot movement. It tries to get by on boo moments, without building the kind of atmosphere this kind of quiet ghost story demands.

“We are spirit and spirit is energy. When the body dies, the flesh rots. The spirit leaves but the energy remains.” –Murase (Kei Yamamoto)

Ghost stories are their own spiritual connection as they are the most versatile of metaphor: from being echoes of emotions, memories, unfinished business, or even guilty conscience. These disembodied spirits point to one thing: some part of us is eternal (we have souls) and we don’t know what happens to them when we die. They hint at an unknown reality beyond death and the questions we have about it.

Like sitting around a Ouija board conjuring up spirits, American filmmakers keep tapping the spirit of movies since past, remaking them with abandon. Essentially, bringing the ghosts of the original to the party, ironically ignoring the fact that the departed hate to be disturbed. J-Horror (Japanese horror, which is typically quiet, slow-paced ghost stories where young women are terrorized by some sort of malevolent supernatural entity), with its adherence to creepy atmosphere and images over plot, rarely translates well and you’re better off renting the original movie rather than suffering through a tepid recreation of it. Without any sort of emotional gravity, Shutter is about as tepid as it gets.

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