Recently, browsing Netflix has become a torturous exercise; I don’t know whether I should blame the limited selection of films or my own sour mood, but nothing in the library ever seems to catch my eye these days. After nearly an hour of scrolling through various subcategories last night, I finally settled on Shutter—which turned out to be exactly what I didn’t know I was looking for.
This Thai psychological thriller was released at the height of the J-horror craze of the early 2000s, and while it shares quite a bit of stylistic DNA in common with the likes of Ringu and Ju-On: The Grudge, it’s significantly more subtle in its depiction of the paranormal. Indeed, almost every “supernatural” occurrence in the plot can be easily rationalized away: the “spirit photos,” for example, might be the result of such mundane factors as lens flare or unintentional double exposure; the more overt “hauntings,” meanwhile, are usually revealed to be either nightmares or hallucinations induced by a combination of sleep deprivation and guilt. Ultimately, the obligatory pale, dark-haired ghost girl is merely a physical manifestation of the protagonist’s tormented conscience. Directors Bangjong Pisanthanakun and Parkpoom Wongpoom occasionally indulge in cheap jump scares, but overall, their emphasis on characterization, command of atmosphere, and willingness to throw in a few (genuinely surprising) narrative curveballs elevate the otherwise familiar material.