Squeezing as much juice as it can out of the Asian horror revival, Hollywood has now turned to a 2004 film from Thailand to remake. “Shutter” is the nonsensical but occasionally shivery result.
Newly married Ben (Joshua Jackson) and Jane (Rachael Taylor) travel to Tokyo, where Ben has a gig taking fashion photographs. While driving on a dark road, they hit a woman standing in the middle of the road.
No trace of her can be found, but weird images begin showing up in their photographs. Could this be “spirit photography,” a phenomenon in which ghosts appear as white streaks in snapshots?
Of course it could. The explanation for the specific haunting of Ben and Jane is laborious, but it provides an excuse for some effective scares and a general sense of dread.
The director here is Masayuki Ochiai (“Infection”), a Japanese filmmaker with no connection to the original “Shutter.” He’s definitely got some visual ideas, even if the movie leans too heavily on well-worn conventions of Asian horror.
One thing Ochiai doesn’t have is a good ear for casual dialogue, so sometimes Jackson and Taylor sound as though they’re reading words off a restaurant menu.
Jackson (once of “Dawson’s Creek”) and Taylor (late of “Transformers”) don’t register much, because they’re really just props in a haunted-house ride. At least the Japanese locations are colorful.
Maybe the creepiest sequence has Jane learning about the real-life theories of spirit photography, which suggest that strange flares in the camera lens are actually the ghostly images of the departed. The idea has been around since photographers first began making mistakes in the studio (and since hucksters began adding spectral smudges for the gullible).
You could certainly build a good horror picture around the concept. “Shutter,” alas, is only halfway there.