The combination of bad karma and bad-boy behavior develops into a gripping supernatural thriller in "The Shutter," a taut, inventive ghost story from Thailand that shows the local industry at its best. Already earmarked as the next big contender on the Asian horror trail launched by "Ring" and "The Grudge," this clever thriller is currently being pursued by several international companies for remake rights. Thai B.O. was socko and pic should travel successfully in other Asian markets, before performing well in international ancillary.

The combination of bad karma and bad-boy behavior develops into a gripping supernatural thriller in “The Shutter,” a taut, inventive ghost story from Thailand that shows the local industry at its best. Already earmarked as the next big contender on the Asian horror trail launched by “Ring” and “The Grudge,” this clever thriller is currently being pursued by several international companies for remake rights. Thai B.O. was socko and pic should travel successfully in other Asian markets, before performing well in international ancillary.

Driving home after attending a college friend’s wedding party, photographer Ton (Ananda Everingham) and his g.f., Jane (Natthaweeranuch Thongmee), accidentally run over a young woman on a dark, deserted road. Unsure of what to do, Ton advises taking it on the lam, which the panicked Jane, who was driving, reluctantly agrees to. Days later, Ton notices that photos from his latest assignment are marred by streaks of light and the dead girl’s ghostly presence.

In an attempt to clear their consciences and dispel the spirit’s apparent rage, Jane and Ton return to the scene of the accident. The couple are puzzled to learn that no death and no body were recorded on the night in question. Unpacified, the female specter ups the scare quotient.

Seeking spiritualist advice, the pair learn the dead only bother the living if they have unfinished business with them. After a series of stylish and unsettling set pieces, Ton is forced to reveal to Jane that the phantom is Natre (Achita Sikamana), a former g.f. who went missing long before the traffic accident. Natre is also spooking Ton’s circle of university friends to the point of suicide and, while she’s clearly out to get Ton, also has a special message for Jane.

While scares aplenty punctuate the film, the final half hour, kicking off with a resourceful communication from the ghostly Natre, is outstanding. Pay-off is powerful, revealing a dark emotional center that will resonate with auds everywhere, making the pic a benchmark horror experience.

Despite the intensity of the story, the movie also has a playful side, setting the audience up for one real scare with two earlier feints. There’s also a very funny, culturally specific joke – unlikely to survive any U.S. remake — when pic looks set to do for toilets what “Psycho” did for showers.

Thongmee’s portrayal of the in-the-dark Jane cleverly walks the line between smart and trustingly naive. Everingham is also convincing as the not entirely honest Ton. Slightly faltering only in the shock denouement, thesp delivers a protagonist that can’t quite be trusted but doesn’t constantly arouse the viewer’s suspicions. Role is the linchpin of the pic’s success and any remake will require an actor (and studio) courageous enough to go the distance with an ultimately unsympathetic character.

Helming, shared between Parkpoom Wongpoom and Banjong Pisanthanakun, owes a lot to Japanese horror traditions without feeling like a mere carbon copy, and has a slickness that shows their involvement in local commercials. Scripting shows a tight grip on the material, lensing by Niramon Ross is suitably dark and atmospheric, and music by Chatchai Pongprapaphan (“Hit Man File”) is appropriately haunting. All other tech credits are top-notch.

The Shutter

Thailand

Production

A GMM Pictures, Phenomena Motion Pictures, GMM Tai Hub Co. presentation of a Phenomena production. (International sales: GMM Tai Hub, Bangkok.) Produced by Yodphet Sadsawd. Executive producers, Paiboon Damrongchaitham, Boosaba Daorueng. Directed by Parkpoom Wongpoom, Banjong Pisanthanakun. Screenplay, Wongpoom, Pisanthanakun, Sophon Sakdapist.

Crew

Camera (color), Niramon Ross; editor, Manop Boonwipas, Lee Chatametickool; music, Chatchai Pongprapaphan; production designer, Suras Kardeeroj; sound (Dolby Digital Surround Ex), Amornbhong Methakunyudh. Reviewed at Bangkok Film Festival (international competition), Jan. 22, 2005. Running time: 95 MIN.

With

Ton...Ananda Everingham Jane...Natthaweeranuch Thongmee Natre...Achita Sikamana Tonn...Unnop Chanpaibool Tonn's wife...Chachchaya Chalernpho
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