SPOILERS ... SPOILERS ... SPOILERS
This is a review of the original Thai version, not the American remake of the same title released in 2008 with I was told basically the same story but somehow poorer version. I have to admit though the poster for the remake version is creepy and very well done.
This review is meant for those who has seen the movie. If you haven't please do not read this review because it will spoil the fun!
Thai with English subtitles
Ananda Everingham ... Tun
Natthaweeranuch Thongmee ... Jane
Achita Sikamana ... Natre
Unnop Chanpaibool ... Tonn
Chachchaya Chalemphol ... Tonn's Wife
Samruay Jaratjaroonpong ... Man 1
Abhijati 'Meuk' Jusakul ... Magazine Editor
Binn Kitchacho ... Asst. Magazine Editor
Jitlada Korsangwichai ... Nurse 1
Panitan Mavichak ... Nuch
Sivagorn Muttamara ... Meng
Saifon Nanthawanchal ... Bride
Kachormsak Naruepatr ... Tee
Panu Puntoomsinchal ... Groom
Duangporn Sontikhan ... Nurse 2
Titikarn Tongprasearth ... Jim
Achita Wuthinounsurasit ... Netre
Thank God for IMDB, if not I will never be able to spell pass through the first half of the first name!
A young photographer and his girlfriend discover mysterious shadows in their photographs after a tragic accident. They soon learn that you can not escape your past.
It is very difficult to write about the plot without revealing major spoilers. Even the summary from imdb.com has revealed too much details so be forewarned, my comments will contain probably complete spoilers. Can't help it. First thing first, some major confusions.
All the names in this movie sounds the same to me. From Tun to Tonn to whatever the same sounding name, so most of the time I got really confused about who is talking about who. In the end it doesn't really matter. Luckily though there are only 2 major characters, 4 side characters and 1 really angry ghost. Everybody else is ke-le-fe.
The story started simple enough. It was present day in 2004 or around that (which is the date of release of this movie), 3 best friends were celebrating their best friend, Tonn's wedding. I did not catch the name of the other 2 guys but the lead character in here for the purpose of this movie is Tun the photographer who came with his girlfriend, Jane. Having had a good night reminiscing about the past, Jane was driving Tun back home and they were busy talking when suddenly Jane's car hit a long haired woman in white shirt. Her car hit a billboard post as the lifeless body of the girl laid on the middle of the road. Jane wanted to check if she was alright but Tun, in a moment of panic urged Jane to just drive off when he saw an oncoming lorry. Jane reluctantly drove away. Life went back to normal for Tun as he went about his work in his photo studio but Jane could not forgive herself for what happened. She questioned Tun's ability to move on so quickly which caused a strain in their relationship. But eventually even Jane went back to her usual routine although she had nightmares of the victim haunting her.
Tun processed some photos he took of a graduating class from his old college and to his surprise most of the photos seemed to be exposed to light as a blinding white light washed over the face of one of the people in the picture. The negatives revealed the same over exposure. However one picture was very strange. It was the gathering of the entire graduating class and in between two graduates was what Tun saw as the side of a mysterious face. He looked closer and closer and suddenly the side face in the picture turned and it was a long haired pale female figure! Tun panicked and even Jane suspected something was not right as both of them had sleepless nights of being haunted by a female ghost. It became more apparent when Tun did some investigation and found out no accident was reported on that night except for a damaged billboard post.
Tun especially felt the effect of a strained shoulder although the doctors could not find anything wrong with his physically except for his sudden weight gain despite looking the same slim self. The ghost became more and more daring and Tun began to feel a rising panic as he was haunted again and again. They became so frightened that they had to seek an answer and Jane with Tun went to see the editor of a magazine that publishes spooky photos. The encounter enlightened Jane. The editor admitted some photos, the majority of them are faked but sometimes, especially those taken from a polaroid which shows some mysterious figures can't be faked. Jane asked "Why do these apparitions appear?" and the editor's answer was "Maybe sometimes the dead can't bear to leave their loved ones behind, they missed them, so they stuck around, or sometimes something bad must have happened to them that their souls could not rest in peace". Jane was troubled by this answer and she investigated further and noticed the graduation photos when seen together in succession revealed the blinding light flying up to a certain window behind the figures. She checked and realised it was the science department. Thinking perhaps the ghost may have something to tell her, she took a polaroid camera and began to take pictures at various empty spaces in the lab, to no results until she snapped a photo of the table with a wall of picture and in the polaroid there stood a blurry female figure. Jane was petrified and began to run but something was pulling her towards the wall of pictures and a single photo fell from the wall. In that picture stood a young pretty girl with long hair and in a white shirt and the date was 10 years ago.
Jane began to suspect Tun wasn't being very honest with her. Somehow her instinct told her this ghost was haunting them for a reason and she confronted Tun and finally Tun admitted, that the girl in the picture that fell from the wall was Natre, a girl he once dated out of pity 10 years before. Natre was a quiet girl and often teased by his other 3 friends but he felt drawn to her and dated her for some time. They slept with each other, she even presented him with his first camera and during their happier times, it was filled with intimacy, small talks and piggy ride with Natre on Tun's shoulder. But it was a secret affair that no one knew and Tun refused to acknowledge her when he was with his other 3 friends who bullied her in front of him. Feeling much burdened by her, he left her and she became emotionally unstable and tried to kill herself. He didn't know what to do and so he left her screaming. Then one day she left school and never returned. Jane asked Tun what happened to her and Tun could only say that he confessed to his 3 friends of his problems breaking up with an emotional Natre and they promised him they will take care of his problem. What they did and why she left school and where she is now, he did not know. Jane was angry with Tun but can't helpt but feel perhaps the girl haunting them was Natre who was vengeful because she was dumped.
The haunting and mystery continues until suddenly one day Tonn, the newly married friend came to him, looking very distressed and kept saying "Tun, the pictures, where are the pictures! Tun where are the pictures!! The pictures!!" and Tun didn't know what he was talking about. Tonn left.Tun followed Tonn back to Tonn's place which was a mess and he witnessed Tonn jumping off the balcony to his death.
At the hospital,Tun met with Tonn's grieving wife who asked what was wrong with them. Tun did not understand and she revealed that all 3 friends jumped off the balcony. Tun and Jane were shocked and Tun knew for whatever reason he was being haunted, he was next. So Tun and Jane decided to pay Natre's hometown a visit which was way outside of Bangkok and on the way they met a monk and a young novice monk who looked at Tun curiously.
They met with Natre's mother. Natre's mother was very pleased to see them and asked them what was the purpose of their visit and they claimed to be Natre's friends and suddenly the mother dropped a bombshell, "Oh, Natre is asleep upstairs. Please wait whilst I wake her up". Jane and Tun were shocked by this revelation and whilst the mother was away they went upstairs and found Natre's room impeccably kept. On the bed was a long haired figure and Tun turned the figure and it was a dried up corpse of Natre! The mother was shocked by their rudeness and Jane asked why wasn't she given the last rites and given a proper cremation and burial. Natre's mother cried and asked "What happened to my daughter? Why did she suddenly leave Bangkok and when she returned she was a different person?". Jane wondered too and urged the mother to cremate the daughter or she will never rest in peace and the mother agreed.
At the first day of the rites being performed an elderly person explained what happened to Natre. He said "She came home suddenly and was very quiet. We tried to ask her what happened but she refused to say anything and kept to herself. She tried to kill herself but her mother found her in time and took her to the hospital. In the hospital she went to the roof and jumped. Her mother became too distraught that she took the body home and never did anything about it".
That night as they slept in bed, Jane asked Tun "Did you love her?" and Tun frankly answered "Perhaps I pitied her more than I loved her. I tried but I realised I couldn't and now she is after me. I am next" and Jane tried to cheer him up. At 3 am, Tun woke up and couldn't sleep. But he felt a presence and in front of him was Natre, all pale and bloody and climbing onto his bed. In a moment of panic he ran out and however much he ran he was always on 4th floor. Then Jane suddenly ran out and asked "Where were you? I was so worried" and Tun relaxed and suddenly Jane said in a different voice "You lying bastard! You lying bastard!!!" and he ran again and climbed down the emergency stairs outside the building. It was wet and slippery as it was raining and up he saw Natre climbing down fast (ala The Ring) and out of shock he fell.
He didn't die but he was injured. Jane was very worried but she said "She will be cremated today". They attended the cremation and felt relieved that the haunting was over. They went for a holiday.
Jane went to the photo studio to take back the pictures processed and as she was looking through it she noticed there was another batch of photo that she didn't remember taking. At Tun's home, she rearranged the photos. They were taken during the time at the height of the haunting where Tun and Jane were sleeping on the sofa. She knew the ghost must have taken these photos and was trying to tell her something as the shadows in the pictures seemed to move. Seen in succession, the shadow of a female figure were crawling towards the bookshelves. She searched the bookshelves and found an old envelope behind the shelves, probably laid forgotten through time. She looked at its contents and were horrified to see picturs of Natre being raped by Tun's 3 friends. Tun came back and Jane confronted him because she knew only one person not in the picture would be the one taking the pictures. Tun confessed; his friends were drunk and they went to the lab where Natre were working hard one night. They teased her and she tried to run away and in the process hurt Tonn who took it as an insult. They pushed her down to the floor and Tonn was raping her when Tun came into the lab carrying a camera, looking shocked. Natre pleaded with Tun to save her as Tonn raped her but Tonn said "Take her pictures! So that she would not tell! Hurry Tun, we are your best friends!!" and Natre saw with her own eyes Tun taking her pictures although he didn't seem to enjoy it. Jane was very disappointed with Tun and she left him as Tun explained he was naive, he was stupid and he had always felt guilty. Jane no longer believed him and tearfully went away.
Tun was now very frustrated and took a polaroid and started to take pictures of empty spaced, looking for Natre. He scolded "You said you loved me, you said you still loved me, is this how you love me? Isn't it till death do us part?" and yet there was no sign of her. The camera fell and a picture of taken of him. He took the picture and his eyes widened with shock as he looked into the mirror before him. Natre was sitting on his shoulder and flashbacks were shown of his constant complain about his tired sprained shoulder, the sudden weight gain despite looking the same and the curious stare of the young novice monk who saw Natre on his shoulder. In shocked he trashed around with Natre closing his eyes and he fell off the balcony.
He didn't die. Jane visited him and he was now in a mental asylum, his head suffered major trauma and he was sitting on the bed slouching and very quiet. Jane couldn't help but cry and she opened the door and walked towards him when in the mirror of the door, we see Natre still sitting on his shoulder with an impassive look.
Of all the ghost and horror movies, only the Thais and the Chinese could make a decent horror movie. Let me explain this.
I have seen the original versions of The Ring, The Grudge, Dark Water (from Japan), The Phone (from Korea), The Eye (from HK) and now this. In between many others and also their poor remakes. Most of the time, especially the horror movies from Japan tends to create a ghostly character that is really majorly pissed about no one in particular. Perhaps their deaths were pitiful but the eventual spirit became vengeful at everybody, and at no particular character that they lose sense of justice, proportion and of course sense. The Japan's ghosts were often senseless, going on a killing spree like some masacre with no intended victim and they could physically drag a person and kill them. Of course most of the time the victims' would have died of fright first but that is beside the point. The ghost could kill with their bear hands apart from staring the victims' to death. The Grudge was scary no doubt but in the end ridiculously senseless to the point that I didn't feel any pity for that crawling bloody vengeful spirit. Even The Ring whose spirit died a pitiful death which evolved into this crawling young spirit in the end became very irritating. I didn't feel that emotional connection with the ghost and after a while all these horror films, save for The Eye seems more interested in frightening people than telling a story. Most of the time the spirits seem more like vengeful bitches rather than there being a reason why they became as such. The Grudge or Ju-On is a prime example.
And then there was Shutter. It took me so long to finally watch this movie because I wanted to prepare myself eventually when I do watch the remake. I always believed the originals were better, especially all these horror films and I believe Shutter is the same too. The Americans are so lazy these days they don't even bother changing the title. How original.
What I love about Shutter is the ending. For once a horror movie with an ending that justifies the existence of the spirit and all the evil that befall the lead character. I felt a certain gladness that that bastard shall have to carry the burden, here manifests as the spirit Natre on his shoulder quite literally for the rest of his life. Frankly when the movie began it was slow. It picked up when Jane hit the mysterious figure and I thought well a hit and run movie, they deserve to be haunted. But twists after twists came with some genuinely scary and spooky moments intrigued me and I kinda suspected towards the middle his friends must have done something terrible to her. I didn't doubt it wasn't murder but I suspected as much. I also suspected Tun's involvement. What I didn't suspect was the explosive revelation as Tun looked into the mirror. Now that was spooky and after that, everytime I feel and ache on my shoulder, I wonder... oh please let me banish that thought! What wrong have I done? What indeed!
The ending made perfect sense and I pitied Natre. Maybe she was emotional and all but after the ending I wondered, how much of what was said by Tun was true? He seems like a good guy but never forget, when Jane wanted to see if the girl on the road was alive, he urged her to drive away. He saw his friends raping Natre and yet he did nothing. He took pictures, even if he said he was reluctant, he took the pictures. He didn't tell Jane the whole truth. And in the end it made me wonder, how much was the whole story about Natre trying to slash her wrists when he tried to leave her was true? I believe he even tried to cover up for his friends when he said they promised to do something about Natre and he didn't know what they did. Of course he knew but were his friends trying to help him? Did they even know he was dating Natre at that time? I don't think so. The flashback showed they were drunk, and Natre seemed to be their favourite past time when it comes to bullying and Tonn raped her in a moment of ego bruised. I don't think they knew Tun was dating her at all and I doubt Tun told them about him trying to break off with Natre since like he said, being seen with Natre the weird girl was uncool. So how much he said to Jane was true?
Interestingly the forums at imdb.com never quite discussed this point. Rather they discussed on the point why Natre was sitting on his shoulder. Was it because of love? Was it hate? She looked rather peaceful, so maybe she enjoyed the view? The referred back to what the editor said, that sometimes those who died can't bear to leave their loved ones. Of course the editor also said sometimes something horrible happened, the spirits could not rest in peace and began haunting them.
For me the answer was pretty clear. She wanted to haunt him for the rest of his life. She didn't even allow him to die in the end, and made sure he lived so that she could continue to haunt him. Her sitting on his shoulder is the manisfestation of his sin and the burden he must bear. He wasn't even feeling guilty and Natre was there to remind him of what he did or rather didn't do and how he must pay. I think this is in line with the Thais and Asians beliefs of "bo-ying" in Cantonese and in English loosely translated as "paying for your sins". I don't think it had anything to do with love. She hated him and it was this hate that made her stick around with the living.
Many questioned how come the novice monk could see her? Well because children have a different perception from us adults and a pure mind could see things. Which is why you will hear of many stories of children speaking to an empty space near the altar (that ancestors' worship place). The children will explain they were speaking to some old man who may be their grandfather. I often hear these kind of stories. Many asked how come the monk never told Tun what he saw? Well he is a child, so maybe he simply didn't know how to tell? Maybe he too was in shock?
Then there was the question about the rape and the pictures. Why should Natre kill herself when she has evidence of the rape? Whether you like it or not, in any culture rape is still a very emotionally devastating thing. Whilst more are urged to come forward and reveal the culprit or report to the police, many are still reluctant because of the shame attached to it. More so for a shy quiet young Natre. Those photos to her are not the evidence of a crime but the evidence of shame. Look at it this way; if there are still women writing to some columns asking advice on how to tell their husbands that they're not virgins anymore during their honeymoon or whatever, more so when it comes to such a devastating moment in a young girl's life. My only question is how come the pictures are still there? Doesn't it show that Tun really had no conscience over what happened to Natre because how can one simply forget about such pictures?
Whatever the question, whatever the reasonings, you can enjoy this movie for various reasons.
First and foremost, it actually has a storyline unlike Ju-On.
Then there was the issue about a ghost or spirit that you felt very frightened of and yet can't help but pity. Injustice was done to her and the ending was justifiable when in the end I felt Tun was a pig.
The scary moments, from the truly all out frigtening (woman with bloody face and long hair walking upside down on the ceiling is simply against nature and for that fact alone it is scary, spirit on the shoulder), seen it all but still scary (that crawling on bed, crawling on ladder, etc) and best of all subtle scary (such as strange figure in a picture, taking pictures of an empty space and there was a figure in it!). However my vote for super freaky moment was when Tun was alone in the dark room developing pictures and suddenly a girl stood next to him whom he assumed was Jane and then the phone rang and he ran out and took the phone and it was Jane saying she would be late, so who was that in the dark room?!?!??!).
The ending, the mother of all endings in a horror movie in recent years.
However it had its cheap and bad moments. The same sounding names, the overlong not very scary moment when in the studio in complete darkness Tun went beserk and the nasal sounding actress. In fact someone told me, and I am trying not to sound too offensive that the Thais can't really speak with a sultry husky voice because of the language. I agree.
And of course the awful acting by the lead actor, Ananda Everingham. Looks handsome far far away, up close too many moles on his face. Looks mixed, name seems to suggest he is mixed but by god, his acting was awful. Luckily he only had to look frightened. If it had been a better actor, maybe there could be a tiny hint that perhaps Tun is really a pig instead of looking handsome and frighetened. If there was a Tun, I believe he to be a man of questionable character from his conduct without even looking at his past.
But other than that, the movie is in fine form and one of those rare horror movies which is truly scary with a story and highly entertaining and more importantly with a ghost that one could find themselves cheering on with the haunting and all. Look, Tun and his friends deserved it. And the ultimate best is Jane was left alone. She was more like the messenger.
My question that remains unanswered is why Natre took 10 years to exact revenge? What tipped her? Or was she always there?
A must watch movie and be prepared to be spooked! As for the remake, read the story, seems like an exact copy except for a change her and there. The choice is yours but do watch originals please!
The photos in the movies were real. Whether the ghosts were real is not the question but they were submitted by real people. Somehow I tend to believe them since how come at a wedding there is a huge space between two people eh? Scary. I am afraid to take polaroids of my room now.