Wytches

 ★★★★★ 

DSC_0502~2

During Suspiria, Dario Argento’s Italian masterpiece from 1977 about a witches coven masquerading as a dance school, there is a brilliant, audacious moment concerning the fate of a blind piano player. It sticks in my mind even now as a perfect example of how a horror film should manipulate the viewer, undermine expectations and use it against them. Take away the safety net. There should always be a splash of madness in the best horrors too. Something that crawls inside your mind and takes up residence.

Scott Snyder and Jock’s comic Wytches opens with a similarly brutal scene that promises the rest of the story isn’t taking any prisoners, including you, the poor reader. Snyder’s fast-paced, twisted narrative borders on obvious, but is grounded by strong characters, the classic Gothic fantasy horror mirrored by real-world demons. It even captures a sense of childish fables, of being captured and eaten (hopefully quickly!). But these are not the cackling pointy-hatted cliches living in ginger-bread houses, but horrific elemental… things. They live in the woods, the very trees themselves and they can give you anything you want. For an awful price, that is. Perhaps the ending seems rushed and has to give in to more routine chills, but chills they are nonetheless and the great thing is that the groundwork has been set-up for wider universe. It’s clear Snyder has only scratched the surface of his own idea and these nasty creatures are dug in very deep.

Jock brings the story to twisted life; the Wytches themselves literally so. His art distorted and frequently, purposefully messy, almost a visual equivalent of some bastard running their nails down a blackboard, and as uncomfortable as it is engrossing. The collected edition doesn’t take too long to read, but promises to linger for a lot longer. Probably while you’re trying to sleep and ignoring that “chit chit chit” noise scratching at your door… Well, pledged is pledged, eh?

Why am I reviewing a comic when normally I’m waffling on about movies? It’s because there is nothing like Wytches in Hollywood and probably never will be. I strongly believe the glory days of real horror are behind us. Foreign work like Let The Right One In or little-known fare like McKee’s The Woman shows the talent is there, but mainstream has given in to sentimentality, remakes and diminishing sequels. I seem to have misunderstood the universally acclaimed Babadook, a film I found dull and lifeless. Clever it may be, but it lacks the substantial sense of dread that Snyder’s wonderful book generates.

I highly recommend picking this up. It’s not at all expensive, even the versions with the bookplates.

https://forbiddenplanet.com/125281-wytches-1/

https://forbiddenplanet.com/144130-wytches-volume-1-bookplate-edition/

http://www.goshlondon.com/2015/06/gosh-exclusive-bookplate-edition-wytches-tp-vol-1/

Don’t Look Now (1973)

 ★★★★★ 

Following the death of their daughter, John and Laura Baxter (Sutherland and Christie) move to Venice in an attempt to forget what has happened. However, they soon meet a pair of elderly sisters, one of whom claim to be psychic and insists that she can see the spirit of their daughter.

Don’t Look Now is a fascinating film, typical of the radical thrillers of the 1970s, with ambition, confidence and skill in equal measure. It would be impossible to make it today and do so effectively. Nicholas Roeg is a director who has some what fallen into obscurity, but this at least will be a timeless and enduring film.

Donald Sutherland and Julie Christie are the heart of a very emotional story, and they are superb. The much talked about sex scene is possibly more effective and justified than any other because we’ve been allowed to understand them so much more than an average screen couple. Roeg also cleverly intercuts with preparations for an evening meal, so despite how explicit it is, it also feels like a real and natural relationship.

The scene is also some way into the story, long after the most devastating opening of any film; the death of Christine, their daughter. Sutherland is especially heartbreaking considering he had an idea something was wrong moments before it happened. Later a psychic will tell Laura (Julie Christie) that her husband has “the gift”.

If it feels like I’m reviewing this film backwards then that’s only fitting! It is a triumph of editing that creates a strange atmosphere, using metaphors rather than strict time to progress. However it is neither inaccessible nor a gimmick as there is definitely a beginning, a middle and then an end, all in the correct order, but a strict sense of time is very hard to pin down. This makes Venice all the more enigmatic, because it is almost like the couple are trapped in some sort of hell (John at least, with his sense of Déjà Vu, haunting visions and relations with religious iconography). The city has probably never been photographed quite like this; a decaying, grimy and dangerous place.

While the film is a powerful and realistic study of grief there is a serial killer on the loose too and here it has more of a horror bent. There isn’t explicit gore or murders, but you can guarantee being seriously creeped-out by whoever is wearing an occasionally glimpsed little red mac. The psychic is convinced that John and Laura’s daughter is trying to warn them to leave, but is this who John keeps seeing? Unfortunately while Laura believes in the gift, John is the one getting the visions and he is confused by them, adding to his, and our, torment.

Even if you already know the ending (and it has been parodied many times) it is still a haunting shock by way of the simplicity of its execution. An odd sense of inevitability and pity hangs long after the end. It is a film that you may find hard to watch, but engrossing nonetheless, so much so that against your better judgement you may find yourself watching again to unlock this enigmatic films intricacies. And that shock ending will never dull.

Halloween: Resurrection

 ★☆☆☆☆ 

I was lucky enough to catch this on TV tonight. You see, I was trying to think of something really painful and futile to do, and had just decided to stick pins in my eyes and hit myself in the balls with a mallet, when this came on. Within minutes, the masochist in me realised this was far more excruciating! Joy!

It is unbelievably awful. Busta Rhymes? Busta bloody Rhymes versus Michael Myers? The shame! The whole thing is a terrible joke. Like all truly bad films, at the heart there is something intriguing, otherwise it would just be boring. This had this slightly-not-terrible idea of having a bunch of teenagers explore the original house while feeding footage back to the Internet. Cool! Nostalgia and all that. Unfortunately, no-one at any stage from inception to execution had any idea how to actually capitalise on it.

So you have the same scene repeated endlessly. Michael looking really dumb, being really predictable and barely moving, while he half-heartedly sticks his knife into the next squeaky acting class reject. Then they’d get away… by running back into the house. Yeah, that works. Whatever. Where’s my mallet?

Cabin Fever

 ★★☆☆☆ 

Bunch of teens are staying at a cabin, but come into contact with a hermit who seems to be rather poorly and beyond the help of Aspirin or Germolene.

I really like Eli Roth’s Hostel films and feel his reputation as a purveyor of torture porn is unwarranted. Sadly this film is pretty pathetic. It has a bit of Evil Dead, via Texas Chainsaw Massacre (weird neighbours, violently unhelpful locals), but misses the point of both of those films by not having a point! It just languishes in a depressing plot about the kids getting sick and dying in variously gory ways, often with help from said locals. The overall theme is obvious from early on so all you can do is sit through the turgid nonsense. It isn’t helped that that the kids are all lying cowards without a shred of decency amongst them, played by a sub-par cast. I think it could have worked if at least some of the locals were vaguely normal, but no way. Instead they are all bat-shit crazy. So there’s nothing for the viewer to latch onto. Except maybe the gratuitous tits and slow-motion arse. I’m in no way offended, but can anyone tell me why those shots are there?

But the worst thing is that while it has no point and is just an unfocused mess, it’s also completely inert with nothing memorable at all. I can certainly understand Roth’s reputation now. If I’d seen Hostel after this debut… what am I saying? I’d never have even given them a chance. Anyway, this suggests he has literally no talent as a director.

It does have it’s good points. The shop owner’s explanation about a rifle is hilariously explained in a twist at the end and some other late characters redeem it some way. In fact, the film is better once the annoying kids are no longer the sole focus. In the final few minutes, the film comes together completely with a blackly comic ending. As such, the film could be cut at least in half and become an episode in a pulpy horror anthology like Creepshow. It doesn’t have the story or more importantly, the talent, to warrant feature length.

This is torture porn at its worst. A pointless, nasty little story to showcase various ways people can die. So I must stress, if you have seen this and have avoided the Hostel films because of it, give them a chance. They are nasty and gratuitous, but Roth’s black humour that comes so late here is more evident in his next film and its sequel and his direction is more dynamic; his characters better formed. The theme of the stories means they are survival movies like this, but with the vaguest chance of actual survival, so you won’t feel quite so cheated!

Alien: Resurrection

 ★★☆☆☆ 

200 years have passed since Ripley made her noble sacrifice in Alien3. But now she’s back, albeit a clone.

And that’s all this film amounts too at its best: a clone of something so much better. We’re off to a bad start with the poster: ”From the director of Amelie”… just who the hell are they trying to market this film to? Good grief.

This film is a diabolical mess. A skid mark right across the franchise. Whereas all three previous films demonstrate a graceful elegance and a terrible beauty, this is just plain ugly, full of empty gimmicks. All the blame can be rested squarely on Jeunet’s shoulders.

Still, it isn’t all bad. Barely. The cast is fantastic and the characters they play have great potential. After the interchangeable bald heads of Alien 3 it’s a pleasure to have such distinct people with something worthwhile to say. Most of the dialogue is cool, as you’d expect from a script by Joss Whedon. His vision is in here somewhere.

The look of the film is wonderful. The colours continue from Alien 3 and the sound design is identical. The creature effects are the best of the series. Sigourney Weaver is once again the strong anchor for the film. After all it is her story. But good though she is, should it have been about her still?

I’m not sure about them bringing Ripley back. It was always going to have a hint of cheese about it, but on the DVD they include Whedon’s first draft. If they had followed this exactly, it would have worked. It is simply brilliant. The opening shot as described evokes the previous films, as do enigmatically powerful dream sequences as the cloned Ripley comes alive. With the look of the film down, great characters played by brilliant actors, why did it go so wrong?

Jeunet didn’t follow the script. That simple wonderful opening shot Whedon describes is replaced by an odd scene with a guard squashing a insect, loading it into a straw and blowing it against a window. Pardon? What the hell is that for?

It seems Jeunet wanted to make a whimsical comic satire of the original lean horror and worse, he’s bastardising a perfect setup to do so. From what I’ve read of the script so far, he changes very little. It’s all how it was filmed. We watch Ripley, rather than follow her which is vitally important for the audience. Whedon’s script gets inside her head and Weaver acts it very well, but Jeunet obviously doesn’t give a damn. The film is amused by her and the other characters, rather than being empathic, so they become two-dimensional.

The marvellous creature designs are undermined by his complete inability to understand them as well. Their clean efficiency is lost as he’s more interested in showing them having personalities. The underwater sequence is ok, but it was obviously supposed to be a match for the trap scene in Aliens, where the drones work out how to get above, but Jeunet’s sledgehammer approach to tension means it’s just one more noisy gag.

It could have still just about worked. It’s a fun movie, as good as the Alien v Predator films, and there’s something to be valued in Ripley’s character. But then Jeunet goes and makes sure the shark has been well and truly jumped. The pregnant Alien Queen is the single worst image I have ever seen in a mainstream film. No exaggeration. That he should de-claw one of Stan Winston’s greatest creations is a pure insult. Injury is added by having her killed by a podgy alien baby thing.

In another film (Invasion of the Marsh-Mallow Man?) that stupid looking dough-boy creature would be a decent villain. The effects guys gave it such incredible emotion. Strangely, in that element, I can still see Whedon’s mark. His script developed the human/alien mix and I think a better director with a deadly serious intention like the others, could have made it work. But no. What a complete cock-up.

I don’t think the Scary Movie/Date Movie/Epic Movie guys have stolen anything from Alien yet. There’s no need. They couldn’t screw it up anymore than Jeunet.

The Omen

 ★★★★☆ 

Gregory Peck stars as Robert Thorn, a powerful politician whose wife has just given birth to a stillborn son. He keeps it from her and on the hospitals suggestion, swaps for a newborn orphan baby. But dire warnings and mysterious deaths suggest that the child, Damien, may be nothing less than the Anti-Christ.

I’ve seen this quite a lot over the years, but it’s never lost any of its power. It’s a great story, well grounded by Peck’s solid performance. It must have been particularly shocking at the time, featuring such an actor, best known as Atticus Finch, the most dependable of heroic everyman types.

I’m a sucker for any story that uses religion like this. The best example is still The Exorcist, but this, probably riding that films wake just three years later, is a very close second though far more comic book, genre filmmaking. The Bible comes with weight and reputation, so if it’s used well in albeit a romanticised fashion, a story like this can seem very legitimate. It’s also good that it involves several countries (American family, British home, Italian monks, Middle East history and artefacts) as that emphasises the world conquering prophecy.

And when it’s played out without a shred of hyperbole or exaggeration, that legitimacy can only increase. Richard Donner has always been a dependable, workman like director, who relies on the characters and script to make the impact, even in Superman. I think Lethal Weapon is him at his most ‘flashy’. Here there are no attempts to make the audience jump. The story is strong enough to linger without short-lived jumps. Scenes like Kathy being knocked off the landing by the little bastard are very clever in their simplicity. Sending the poor goldfish ahead gives a very tangible sense of peril without resulting to a single note of music or gratuitous zoom.

I just called Damien “the little bastard”, but that’s a bit misleading. Perhaps not on that very last famous shot. Then it’s justified, but until the landing scene his role is quite ambiguous. As such, he is terrifying, like a teddy bear hiding a grenade! But in the final sequence, he’s still a child after all and that makes this an agonising spectacle. It’s Mrs. Baylock, the apostle, who is the real threat for the viewer though. Her and her dog (who have hilariously expanded roles in a rightly deleted scene on the DVD).

The Omen films are strangely similar to the Alien ones: excellent, old-fashioned first instalment; more visceral, next generation sequel (though Omen II is more silly fun); crap third part that tries to close the trilogy in a commendable way; and a part 4 that ranks amongst the worst films ever made, with utterly ridiculous plot ideas. Of course, this has suffered the final insult and been remade. Do yourself a favour and look the original up instead.

Suspiria

 ★★★★★ 

suspirai

An American girl arrives late at a German dance academy in time to see a girl running away, who is murdered soon after. Other strange events follow and she finds out about the mysterious history of the school and that it used to be a front for a coven of witches before being destroyed in a fire.

Suspiria is a milestone of Italian horror and it doesn’t disappoint, though it does take a little getting used to. It is at once faithfully developing and adhering to old techniques of genre film-making, while also pushing it to its very limits in ways even the independent spirit of ’70s films would find impossible to match. As such, it is genuinely shocking, even today, with one scene in particular making a complete mockery of the entire Saw franchise. It’s too easy to be snobbish though, so to put it in context, it was released the same year Spielberg invented the blockbuster in Jaws, three years after The Texas Chainsaw Massacre and two before Alien.

Horror is the most visual of the original genres, developed from German Expressionism where Gothic architecture and ominous shadows became the essential building blocks of any scary movie. The school is a perfect setting for a classic horror then, with everything from huge halls, creepy attics and secret rooms. But what’s changed over the years in general is that those core elements have softened; either audiences have become desensitised to the OTT visual style of old-school horror, or studios prefer something more generic and so soften the edges.

Dario Argento doesn’t follow that thinking at all. He takes his typical Gothic mansion and enthusiastically drenches it colour. Every set is dazzlingly different to the last, in both decor and lighting. Even the narrative alludes to it, with a teacher conducting lessons in either the “red room” or the “yellow room”. There is a blue room as well and Argento uses those primary colours along with windows and reflections to emphasise a hidden world just behind what we can see.

This is perhaps demonstrated best in a memorable scene when all the students are forced to abandon their rooms and have to sleep in makeshift beds all together in a hall that the teachers have hastily prepared. Sheets are hung from the ceiling to form a barrier inside the hall. When the lights are turned off, instead of the expected darkness, we get a deep dark red with shadows moving along the sheets.

Brilliantly effective, Argento never takes the obvious route in this film and defies convention whenever possible. This assault on convention and the senses is also in the soundtrack from Goblin. I’d forgotten about their wonderful, brief theme in Dawn of the Dead and this is similarly bonkers. It sounds like they threw everything into it! There’s even a voice screaming “witch!” in the mix. At times, I found it a bit much, but then I wasn’t expecting such a visceral experience overall and repeat viewings will let me appreciate it properly. When the girl is departing the airport at the very start, the music is only heard when the doors at the front open. Nice gag and underlines the idea she’s stepping into a new world.

So it’s all very pretty in a foreboding way, but these Italian films are known for their blood soaked murders. Suspiria opens with one of the best movie murders you will ever see and has one or two more that are very powerful indeed. Not so much for their aesthetics, but just because they get under your skin and again challenge what you may expect to be the norm. One in particular involving a blind piano player and his dog, is incredibly audacious.
What really surprised me is the lack of gore though. It’s used in the right place at the right times to best serve the story. I’ve come to think that Giallo is a term thrown around without much understanding and is actually a more subtle genre. In fact, remove the murders, lessen the tone and you have a typical fairytale. Harry Potter and the Bloody Nasty Witches, perhaps?

This is possibly the films masterstroke, because despite the very adult tone, it’s set in a child’s world of simple black and white morality and therefore gets to the root of our fears. The teachers who are really witches/robots/aliens (delete as applicable) is a common story, that thrives on that idea of hidden worlds (the big scary adult world usually). The idea that all the students think the teachers go home every night, but one realises the footsteps go in the wrong direction is a very childish notion, and I mean that in a very, very good way.

If you’ve never experienced Italian horror before, this is a perfect jumping on point.

Alien3 (“Assembly” Cut)

 ★★★☆☆ 

Ripley crash lands on a prison planet, the only survivor of the Sulaco in Aliens. Into this world of rejects she brings another Alien.

What a fascinating mess of a film! I can’t hate this movie, I won’t hate this movie. It’s a noble effort and a decent sci-fi film in it’s own right. It just had neglectful parents. It’s crying out for a Criterion release because I bet they could get uncut features with Fincher ripping into Fox. I’d love to hear the true story of how Fox screwed their own franchise. The twats. That the film is as good and as watchable as it is, is a miracle.

I watched, for the first time, the “Assembly Cut” and it is a very different beast. Without the still bitter Fincher it is as flawed as the theatrical release, but in a different way and more commendable. There is a glimpse of what could have been.

It was doomed from the start. Despite Aliens being a massive success, Ripley’s back story had been removed (restored in the SE) which pissed off Sigourney and so she favoured a script for this second sequel with a reduced role so she could walk away. But the meddling doesn’t stop there and Alien 3 is a mash-up of several ideas, and it shows. The creature design design is a let down (they asked Giger to update it, but he overdid it, so they ignored him) and then there’s David Fincher. Ridiculous move to hire the current wonder-boy then take every decision away from him.

You can’t start a production like that and expect it to work and those fundamental flaws formed the building blocks of the real villain of the franchise, Alien: Resurrection. It seems to me from the features on this film that some threads of the rejected scripts made it into the next film and possibly some of Giger’s more ludicrous designs which make Resurrections Alien/Human hybrid baby look good. Although his work should be honoured, I do think the man is utterly bonkers and his raw creativity was tempered for the first two so us mere mortals could actually understand it. Have you seen his books? He doesn’t think like the rest of us. His design for Alien 3 included lips and the creature would kill by “kissing”! Seriously. Get the man his tablets. Fincher said he wanted to get back to the erotic nature of Alien, so Giger swapped the jaws for big lips. As you do.

Another one who needs medication is Vincent Ward. His version of the screenplay was set on a wooden planet. With monks. Have they even seen Alien? This was almost the shooting script by all accounts. Fincher comes in at the last minute to deal with the new script. Poor sod made a decent go of it really.

So lets deal with what’s on the screen. The good stuff. Lets take a step back and think for a moment. How many good part threes are there? Not many, especially on the back of two genuine masterpieces. At least Alien 3 tries to go back to scary basics of one Alien, while extending the story to a new level. A natural level, because it’s always been about a fight between species and how our human nature keeps crippling us. Here the humans make a stand by becoming less than human.

The first two films are about survival. This is about death. So starting by killing off Newt and Hicks was controversial, brave and for this story, the right thing to do. This is nihilism. You liked those characters? Tough. They’re dead. It kind of puts the viewer in Ripley’s position. We’ve gone to hell and back with her and the reward is more death. Time for a change in attitude, which is only right really, because the shit only hit the fan last time because of her. Go back for Newt, she gave the Queen a ticket off the planet and didn’t check the ship before hypersleep. That’s silly. You always check the back doors locked before going to bed, don’t you? It’s about time she accepted some responsibility!

The idea of her being infected forces the issue. On this world, she’s as alien as the creature. To ram the point home it’s a prison planet. A female is the very last thing they need, especially as their exile is their own doing. They’ve made a conscious decision to separate and form their own society, where they simply function until death which they welcome in whatever form God chooses to deliver because they’ve found religion too. This efficient, unemotional and committed group is the first match for the Alien. There are no cats or little girls to worry about here. They’re going to fight to win, even if they die.

Excellent idea. Brilliant extension to Alien themes. However, it’s miserable. The first two films were just as deep, but remembered to wrap it all up in something recognisably entertaining. A haunted house and a rollercoaster. Here they give us depression. Cheers. Killing two fan favourite characters might have suited this story, but they alienate (snigger) most of the audience.
The assembly cut really improves things with plenty of back story to the prisoners, which only serves to support the excellent performances by the three or four main characters played by Dutton (the funeral is beautifully done), Dance, Glover and a deservedly extended role for McGann. They actually have personalities beyond Bald and Ugly now, which was a serious problem before, and they’re funny. A whole subplot was cut where they successfully capture the Alien and lock it up, before the nut (McGann) who was going on about “the dragon” lets it out again. That reminded me of Renfield from Dracula, obeying his enigmatic master. I loved that angle, absolutely made the film for me and they make me recommend it for you. It deserves a second chance on this score.

I wasn’t so keen on them changing the dog for an ox. I always liked the shot of the dog barking at the facehugger. Here the crash is completely different and you don’t see how the facehugger meets Babe (the name of the ox… just go with it). But the prisoners reaction is funnier when one finds the dead facehugger. The Alien overall is simply not that scary in either version. The sleeker design is cool, but CGI just doesn’t work. There’s even more of it in the SE.

Pacing and editing is an issue and is the biggest black mark against the movie compared with the first entries. No build up to pure adrenalin here and Lance’s cameo is just… odd. Without Fincher on board the whole enterprise was irretrievable, but I really recommend seeing this version. It had some good ideas as I said, looks great and could have been a perfect end to the trilogy.

Aliens: Special Edition

 ★★★★★ 

After the events of Alien, Lt. Ripley (Sigourney Weaver) returns to Earth and no-one believes her story. In fact, the planet is being colonised. Soon however, they lose contact with the colonists and a rescue mission is mounted. Ripley reluctantly agrees to go along as consultant.

In the mid-1980s, sequels were not as expected as they are today and the only truly successful ones were often part 2’s of a continuing story (Empire Strikes Back for instance). So I feel confident in saying that Aliens is the best “unnecessary” sequel ever made.

Although it lacks the grace and unique atmosphere of the peerless Alien, it expands on the original without compromising its themes, rather it emphasises them, using the familiar motifs in new ways. In Alien, the creature was so perfect it represented a shift in the food chain. Marines armed to the teeth should be able to kick nature in the nuts and force the balance back, but the cocky soldiers (all with their own personalities rather than faceless grunts) are on the back foot from the first attack and need rescuing by Ripley who is only there as an advisor on the “bugs”.

One of cinemas icons, Ripley is the one who evolves to find a common ground and a foothold to survive. Not as the kick-arse Ripley everyone remembers because she was clearly that by the end of Alien and comes back pretty quick here to take charge of the disintegrating military. Here, more importantly, it’s as a mother to runaway Newt that will get her through this time. The Alien lifecycle may be perfect, but that humanity is the best weapon they have. Sigourney Weaver was deservedly Oscar nominated for the role. Newt (Carrie Henn) is a brilliantly written child character, something that is frequently mishandled and annoying. Cute, but tough, she gets some great lines and her expression is faultless at conveying real terror.

The mother angle is what brings Ripley face to face with the Alien Queen. Stan Winston’s fantastic creation still causes a shiver down the spine. I’m not sure if a Queen was actually envisaged in Giger’s original bio-mechanics and simply not used in Alien, but either way, its development here is perfectly handled and honours the original cycle. She’s truly the stuff of nightmares.

Aliens greatest trick though is that all this worthy psychological extension of the themes in Alien is wrapped up in one of the best and most influential, balls to the wall action films, peppered with quotable one-liners. It’s a brutal masterpiece that leaves you exhausted and gets the adrenalin pumping, and that’s before the final act! The power-loader sequence is superb. The music and editing build to a crescendo few other films can match.

The fact that the Aliens theme is used time and time again in trailers is proof alone of the enduring power of this rollercoaster.

Shutter

 ★★★☆☆ 

A photographer, Tun and his girlfriend Jane are driving home from a party when a girl steps out in front of them. Instead of checking on the girl, Tun persuades Jane to just drive on. Wracked with guilt they try to find out if she survived, but there’s no trace. But Tun has started to see apparitions in his photographs and as something from his past continues to haunt him, his closest friends are dying.

Shutter is an effective J-horror, although strictly speaking, it’s Thai, but it has all the usual ingredients that fans of Ringu and Ju-On will recognise. In fact, apart from some odd pacing in the middle, the only problem with Shutter is familiarity. It follows a similar pattern to the others and as usual it’s a very emotional story; the spirit is restless because of Tun’s guilt.

It has a very laidback, almost dreamlike quality, perhaps a bit too enigmatic at times, but there are a handful of solid scares. Much of it is predictable though, both in plot and in where the next jump is coming from, but all credit to the film that those moments still work. A sequence with a polaroid camera very creepy because it’s an instant picture and what Jane sees in the picture, must be in the room right now! Honourable mention for the flash sequence and darkroom.

The film loses momentum towards the end with a very odd, out of place scene in a roadside toilet. It picks up again for the last act where the truth of what happened is revealed. Jane gets a clue with a stack of photographs where the shadows form a flick book animation. The final moments are a bit silly, but look great and the very last shot is very memorable!

If you’ve never seen a J-horror, then I highly recommend this as it’s a perfect jumping on point to a worthy genre that might be starting to show its age. If you’re a veteran, it’s still worth seeing at least.