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A view from the Blu (-ray) on DVDBeaver by Leonard Norwitz


A Little Background     Openers     


    Modus Operandi     The Scorecard:     

Emotive Connection      Audio     Operations    Extras     The Movie     Equipment





Shutter [Blu-ray]


(Masayuki Ochiai, 2008)







Review by Leonard Norwitz



Theatrical: Regency Enterprises

Blu-ray: 20th Century Fox Pictures Home Entertainment



Region: A

Runtime: 89 minu

Chapters: 24

Size: 50 GB

Case: Standard Blu-ray case

Release date: July 15, 2008



Aspect ratio: 1.85:1

Resolution: 1080p

Video codec: AVC @ 34 MBPS



English 5.1 DTS HD Master Lossless, Spanish & French 5.1 DD



English SDH, Spanish, Cantonese, Mandarin and Korean



• Commentary by Production Exec Alex Sundell, Screenwriter Luke Dawson, and Actress Rachel Taylor

• Featurette: A Ghost on the Lens (08:09 min.)

• Featurette: A Cultural Divide: Shooting in Japan (09:21 min.)

• Featurette: The Director: Masayuki Ochiai (09:32 min.)

• Featurette: A Conversation with Luke Dawson (05:33 min.)

• Featurette: A History of Spirit Photography (04:50 min.)

• Featurette: The Hunt for the Haunt (02:29 min.)

• Create Your Own Phantom Photo

• Fox Movie Channel Presents:

• Japanese Spirit Photography Videos (17:16 min.)

• Alternate & Deleted Scenes

• Alternate Ending



The Film:

I imagine I'm not the only critic who wonders why Warner, Fox and others would trouble themselves to bring out on blu-ray movies that not only critics, but users of the various film and video forums despise. While there may be prior contractual matters at play, I have an alternative answer – one that satisfies my ideas about both marketing and human psychology. Let's consider Warner Home Video's One Missed Call for a moment. According to the IMDB, One Missed Call took in some $26,876, 500 worth of box office business in its first two months. Yet despite its low ratings, the blu-ray disc ranked 11,925 at Amazon.com after less than three months. And where, pray tell, ranked A Room With a View (18,151 after 8 months), or Breaker Morant (22,660 after 5 months), Reds (30,779 after 20 months), or Crash (12,495 after 2 years), or Good Night, and Good Luck (31,998 after 2 years)! I was mildly surprised that The Searchers did as well as it did (6,151 after 20 months).

IMDB users give Shutter a 4.7 (out of 10). But I think there is at least one factor that goes beyond the obvious: that which one does in the privacy of one's home trumps critical opinion. It's the same reason why video pornography now equals or betters sales of mainstream video. I'm not saying that One Missed Call or Shutter qualify as pornography, but that they satisfy similar wants. Yes? No?

The Movie : 3
Shutter is based on a 2004 Thai movie of the same name, and is produced by the same folks that brought us the American versions of the Japanese horror films, "The Ring" and "The Grudge." I thought the western translation of "The Ring" to be better than adequate. The Grudge and Shutter I don't know in their original states. I think back to the sci-fi horror movies of the 1950s and our obsessive fascination with how the technical world would lead us to our demise, starting with the A-Bomb or, later, the computer. Still might, I guess. In Shutter, the technical cue is photography – more specifically "spirit photography," which has a pedigree dating back to the mid-nineteenth century: the idea being that photographs might be able to reveal spirits from the dead and act as a kind of portal to their world.


In the present instance, that spirit is a woman whom a newly married couple have apparently run over on a mountain road late at night. Benjamin & Jane (Joshua Jackson & Rachel Taylor) were on a working vacation on their way to Tokyo when Rachel believed she hit a woman who came out of nowhere and just as easily vanished without a trace after the "accident." Problem is that she (an eerily compelling Megumi Okina) later shows up repeatedly and vaguely in all sorts of photographs taken by Ben or Jane, regardless of the camera. Jane is obsessed with finding out what this all about; Ben less so, for good reason, we come to find out.

By the way, this "Unrated" edition is some four minutes longer than the theatrical version, and it seems to be more "extended" than anything else. ox is releasing the Unrated version on SD and Blu-ray simultaneously with the R-Rated version.


Image: 6~7/8.5
The first number indicates a relative level of excellence compared to other Blu-ray discs on a ten-point scale. The second number places this image along the full range of DVDs, including SD 480i.

As befits your basic small-budget horror movie, during the scary bits the source image is deliberately grainy, gritty, processed, black-blocked, high contrast and lacking dimensionality – you name it. But most of the movie consists of fairly garden variety scenes of offices, cityscapes, homes and the like, and they are shot and transferred to DVD unremarkably. I don't mean to seem disparaging. It's just that the contrast between the ordinary and the extraordinary is made the less frightening by deliberately exaggerating that difference in post-production. The blu-ray transfer is reasonably faithful to that intent, so there is nothing to complain about. We can only marvel at the implications of serving up such a movie with a high bit rate.













Audio & Music: 6/6
The audio mix is given the full horrible treatment for much the same reason and in the same way as the image. Most of the movie is pitched at a reasonable volume, but the scary parts are so pumped up that I found it impossible to arrive at a suitable setting that would accommodate both. The 5.1 DTS HD Master Lossless track can get really LOUD. You have been warned: Turn your volume down, way down, then scan to the first car crash and set the gain accordingly. I found that there was little subtlety to the "quieter" moments – the ones that should have been filled with scary emptiness, holding a promise of nightmares.



Operations: 5
The menu is clear enough and easy to facilitate getting out of, but not so easy to get back to from the bonus materials: we have to return the feature and activate the full menu, instead of advancing to the next bonus feature. There isn't even a Play All choice for the Extras.

Extras: 3
Remember What's Up, Tiger Lily? Well, I think maybe the most fun way to watch this movie, even the first time, is with the audio commentary, without subtitles. The extras are all in varying degrees of deplorable 480i image quality, as if they themselves were a Blair Witch faux documentary. Maybe I didn't get that this was all supposed to be funny. At best, as in The Hunt for the Haunt, it's lame humor. At its worst, as in the Japanese Spirit Photography Videos, it's not scary. But most of them are mercifully brief and so vacuous as to poke a stake in the eye of the concept of "special features." A Cultural Divide: Shooting in Japan" was mildly interesting. A History of Spirit Photography started out with possibilities, but went nowhere. The photos in it were interesting. I've seen them before, but not all in one swell swoop.



Bottom line: 3
It's not that Shutter is a particularly bad movie, it's just that, while consistent with J-horror clichés and conventions, it has nothing new or inventive to say about the genre. On the other hand, Rachel Taylor is certainly easy on the eyes, Tokyo is an interesting character in itself, and Megumi Okina is mesmerizing.

Leonard Norwitz
July 10th, 2008







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