Banjong Pisanthanakun and Parkpoom Wongpoom made their breakthrough as young directors with their first film, Shutter. This classic Thai horror is filled with jumpscares and a frightening female ghost. Tun and Jane are haunted and the only way to see their pursuer is through photographs from their cameras.
Shutter became extremely popular internationally and has been remade several times, three times in India alone and another in America. Despite that, why not watch the original film that has inspired so many others?
Thai Beliefs and Folklore
Thai folklore has influenced many Thai films, especially horror. Shutter’s antagonist is a ghost most audiences are very familiar with. Natre, our antagonist, is a female ghost with messy long hair, ragged white clothes, and of course, a ghostly-pale face.
In ties to Thai folklore, Natre closely resembles Chao Kam Nai Wen. This particular spirit holds grudges against the person (or persons) who have wronged them in their former life and could typically sit on the back of the person.
Buddhism is the leading religion in Thailand and, in Bhuddhist beliefs, people’s fate is determined by their actions depending on if they are righteous or sinful. This is what we know as “Karma”.
In Shutter, bad Karma brings a vengeful spirit to ‘life’. We see a flashback where three boys take advantage of the innocent Natre as Tun lets it happen. As Natre passes away and becomes a spirit, she haunts the boys who have wronged her, including Tun.
The Number of Death
As Tun is running down the stairs from the vengeful Natre, we start to notice that he is perpetually stuck on the 4th floor. In East Asian culture, the number ‘4’ is seen as an unlucky number, similar to the number ‘13’.
In many languages, such as Chinese, four is said as “四 (sì)” which sounds similar to the word for death, “死 (sǐ)”. It makes sense that Tun is trapped in the endless loop of the fourth floor as this spirit hunts him down with the desire to kill him.
Is Shutter Worth Watching?
With all the horror tropes you can think of in one movie, Shutter can feel quite clichè. The main scare factor is jumpscares. And, while it possesses elements of buildup, they do not deliver an adequate amount of thrill that will keep us on the edge of our seats.
It takes a while for us to truly know what the danger is. Although it is hinted at many times that a ghost may be haunting them, we are unsure of what harm this creature can do to our characters.
The main characters also act in a way that makes it difficult for us to sympathise with. They often make decisions that play into the “dumb horror movie character’ trope, where they will actively seek out danger instead of running away. Additionally, Tun is a character whose morale and actions make it hard for the audience to justify any desire for his safety. Perhaps, his Karma will truly decide his fate.
However, I believe that films are always subjective and every film can be worth watching. Like any horror movie, Shutter is a great watch for you, your friends, or your family to scream at – if they are mature enough. Turn off the lights and Shutter will make you shudder.
Trigger Warnings: Suicide, Self-harm, Blood, R*pe