Shutter (2008) Explained

An Average Movie-Goer’s Review

Spoilers! If you don’t want spoilers – check out the Spoiler-Free post

Shutter 2008 explained poster

I love horror movies and if I’m going to watch them anyway, why not write an entertaining/funny review from the POV of an average movie-goer and not a professional critic.

Today we’re looking at the 2008’s Shutter

Days after their wedding, a couple finds themselves haunted by a spirit while in Japan that continues to appear in pictures.

Is Shutter (2008) Scary?

Nah, Shutter has a few jump scares but most feel pretty forced and you end up rolling your eyes more than anything. Shutter also doesn’t do a good job of creating a creepy atmosphere or setting despite it being very obvious that they’re trying.

Overall you won’t leave Shutter scared of anything unless it causes you to check the prices on Polaroid cameras.

Shutter (2008) Plot Summary:

The film opens on Ben and Jane’s, (played by Joshua Jackson and Rachael Taylor respectively) wedding day where everything is super positive and things are going just great. But in order to remind you this is a horror movie about cameras, someone snaps a picture and things get literally negative.

Later, while Ben carries Jane into their apartment, he accidentally knocks over some disposable cameras and you remember that those things used to be a thing. Ben snaps a picture of Jane and leaves the camera on top of the television which feels like it’ll be important later. 

kodak disposable cameras in 2008's Shutter
Anyone else suddenly remember they never got some film developed 15 years ago?

The couple heads to Japan and immediately mess up when driving through some woods. By “mess up” I mean “fuck up” because Jane accidentally runs over a young woman who was wandering the road. Jane loses control of the car and crashes into a tree knocking herself and Ben out but before Jane loses consciousness, she sees the woman she ran over getting up.

A short time later Jane and Ben wake up and search for evidence of the girl but find nothing. Police and medics arrive but after investigating, they believe Jane hit a deer because you know how easy it is to mistake people for deer. Arriving at a rental place, Ben complains of some back pain, possibly due to the accident, and has come to believe there wasn’t a girl on the road.

The next day Ben takes Jane to his new job as a photographer at a prestigious Tokyo modeling agency or magazine… I’m not sure. There, the two meet with Ben’s good friend and co-worker Bruno (played by David Denman).

David Denman as Bruno in 2008's Shutter
“Sorry things didn’t work out with Pam at The Office… I mean, what?”

The three head to the photography studio and meet Ben’s new assistant, Seiko (played by Maya Hazen). We also learn that the company Ben works for is letting him and Jane live in the building in an apartment above the studio. Either Ben is the best photographer in the world or this is some bullshit.

That night Jane has a nightmare about the woman she ran over but doesn’t seem too alarmed about it when she wakes up… because who hasn’t murdered some? In the morning, Jane looks over some developed photos that were taken at the rental place and notices several pictures have a white smudge on them.

Ben assumes they’re just a reflection or a bad frame but Jane points out it happened to several pictures. Ben shrugs it off and heads to work.

strange white smudges appear in pictures in 2008's Shutter
“Just a reflection,” says the professional photographer…

We get a quick montage of Jen wandering around Tokyo taking some pictures with a digital camera and it’s as boring as it sounds. Later she stops by the studio to see Ben while Seiko takes a look at the pictures Jen took. She’s immediately startled and we see that several photos have the same white smudge.

Seiko recognizes these as spirit photos and says her ex-boyfriend works at a spirit photography magazine because of course he does. Seiko tells Jen she’ll introduce her to him tomorrow despite Jen never asking for the meeting.

Jen and Ben next head to dinner with Bruno where they meet up with another friend and co-worker of Ben’s, Adam (played by John Hensley). We get a quick sense that Adam is a bit of a sleazebag who sleeps with models in order to get them jobs. There are also hints that Bruno and Ben are aware of this but we don’t know the full extent of their participation.

The next day, at a photo shoot atop a building, Ben sees the girl Jen ran over standing in the middle of the shoot while looking through his camera. When he looks up the girl is gone but doesn’t ask anyone if they also saw her. Ben then rubs his neck referencing the injury he received from the car crash and carries on with his day.

Ben sees Megumi's spirit during his photoshoot in 2008's Shutter
“Should I be alarmed there’s a ghost days after my wife thinks she killed someone?… nah”

Meanwhile, Seiko takes Jen to the Spirit magazine offices and introduces her to her ex-boyfriend Ritsuo (played by James Kyson). Jen learns that the magazine photoshops most of the pictures they display but Ritsuo states he started the magazine after he discovered his mother’s spirit in a real picture. 

Ritsuo takes Jen to a room displaying several real spirit pictures and says he believes spirits appear in photos when they are trying to send a message. Ritsuo suggests Jen visit a local medium, Murase, who might be able to decipher the message the spirit in her photos is trying to send.

We catch back up with Ben who sees the girl Jen ran over in a photo while developing it. Shocked, he accidentally gets some chemicals in his eyes and when trying to rub it out with a towel, discovers his face covered in blood. Moments later, Seiko enters the studio and Ben realizes it was just a hallucination.

At the same time, Jen hops on a train and sees the girl she ran over in the window. The girl then turns into a skull which really causes Jen to freak out and beg for the train to stop.

Megumi appears as a skull on the train window in 2008's Shutter
You could freak out or you could remember she’s outside of the train and you’re still inside

As Jen arrives at the apartment she hears an angry Ben complaining that the photos from the shoot earlier are ruined. Jen looks at the photos, sees the same white smudge on the photos, and tells Ben she thinks it’s the spirit of the girl she ran over. Ben dismisses her despite experiencing some weird shit himself and the two argue. 

The following day, Ben goes to get his neck pain checked out but the doctor finds so signs of injury. Later while he develops photos, we hear Jen humming and see her hand caressing Ben’s shoulder. Ben apologizes for the argument but is interrupted when the phone rings in the other room.

Ben answers and it’s revealed to be Jen who apologizes for the argument but Ben doesn’t hear this because he’s realized that Jen can’t be in two places at once. He slowly approaches the dark room and opens the curtain to find the woman Jen ran over sitting on the chair. A fly crawls around under her skin and out of her eye as Ben screams.

Megumi Okina as Megumi appears to Ben in his studio in 2008's Shutter
Hey, you got something on your face…

Jen hears the screams and rushes back home to find Ben sitting in a chair staring out of the window. Jen calls out to him and carefully approaches him. In a dumb jump scare we find out he’s totally fine despite the movie trying to fake us out. Ben apologizes to Jen and she tells him about what she learned from Ritsuo.

The two visit the medium Ritsuo recommended, Murase (played by Kei Yamamoto) and Ben translates for Jen. Jen tells him about the car accident and shows him the spirit photos from the rental place. Murase reluctantly places his hands on the photo and seems to learn something as he yells out in anger. 

Ben calls him crazy and storms out as Jen follows behind. Jen asks what he said and Ben responds that Murase stated there is no hope for them but also calls him a scam artist. Ben heads to the studio as Jen returns to the apartment and looks at the photos from Ben’s photoshoot.

Noticing that the white smudge appears to be pointing to the 17th floor of a building conveniently in the background, she decides to borrow a Polaroid camera from Seiko and head there. Luckily for Jen, the security in the building sucks and she easily heads to the 17th floor without a problem.

Following some flickering lights, because electrical problems mean ghosts, Jen enters an empty office and starts taking pictures. Finally, after Jen takes several pictures, she gets one photograph with the spirit staring at her.

Nickelback showing Megumi in a photo from 2008's Shutter
Look at this photograph

A shadow passes behind Jen causing her to scream and run despite just a few moments earlier demanding the ghost to appear. The spirit slams the office door closed which causes a picture to fall off the wall. Instead of running the hell out of there, Jen looks at the picture and realizes one of the women in the picture is the same woman she ran over.

The woman’s name is revealed to be Megumi (played by Megumi Okina) and the photographer, which is conveniently listed on the back of the frame, is Ben… DUN DUN DUNNN…? Speaking of Ben, while he is alone in the studio, the power goes out as a camera starts taking flash pictures on its own. 

If you don’t get a seizure from the flashing lights, you’ll see Megumi slowly approaching him and just giving him a little scare. Jen arrives and turns on the lights and everyone knows ghosts can’t do hauntings in the light, so Megumi disappears.

Jen questions Ben about knowing Megumi and it’s time for an exposition scene! As Ben narrates some flashbacks we learn that Megumi was a translator at the company years ago and the two were in a serious relationship.

Ben reveals he and Megumi has a serious relationship in 2008's Shutter
Like real serious

Unfortunately, Megumi’s father didn’t approve of the relationship but then he died so that worked out. After her father’s death, Megumi changed and became obsessed with Ben to the point that Ben ended their relationship. This didn’t deter Megumi as she would constantly follow Ben and threatened to hurt herself. Ben ends the story by stating that Bruno and Adam elected to talk to Megumi and immediately after, she stopped harassing Ben.

Jen asks why Megumi was on that road and Ben says she must have been following him again. He then offers to quit his job and move back to New York with Jen as he is not willing to risk Megumi hurting Jen. 

Later Ben calls Bruno privately to ask about Megumi and Bruno says he saw her on the street a couple of days ago. Ben asks if he is sure it was Megumi but is interrupted by Jen and for some reason, he keeps the call a secret. Meanwhile, we get confirmation that Adam is sleazy as he has a model take off her clothes during an interview and we see that this isn’t the first time he’s done this.

Adam is sleazy in 2008's Shutter
Are we about to see a black couch in a dimly lit office room?

As he takes pictures of the model, smudges appear around the lens and take the form of Megumi’s silhouette. Somehow the camera’s viewfinder explodes and removes Adam’s eye as the model screams. A short time later, Bruno learns of Adam’s “accident” and calls Ben to let him know Adam is in the hospital. After hanging up with Ben, Megumi appears behind Bruno as we cut away.

At the hospital, Ben calls Bruno and leaves him a message letting him know Adam didn’t make it. Wondering where Bruno is, Ben and Jen head to his apartment. The two look around and Jen finds several pictures on a table cut into pieces… why would Megumi make him do this? Jen spots Bruno standing in the hall in his underwear… again why?

Appearing to be in some kind of trance, Bruno runs at Jen but does a sharp turn before reaching her and jumps out of the window to his death.  

Ben and Jen come to the conclusion that Megumi is responsible for Adam and Bruno’s death (no shit) but are confused as to why them as they weren’t involved in the accident. The two decide to high-tail it back to NYC and rush back to their apartment to get their plane tickets. 

As Ben gets the tickets, Jen opens the mail which includes pictures from the wedding. Turns out Megumi’s spirit was at the wedding as well, which means Jen didn’t kill Megumi as she was dead already. The two decide to find Megumi’s body in order to lay it to rest and they head out to Megumi’s house the next day.

In the house, Ben finds several empty bottles of potassium cyanide and Jen spots Megumi sitting in a chair facing a window. Approaching her and calling out to her despite having already come to the conclusion that Megumi is totally dead, Jen is shocked that Megumi is actually dead.

Ben and Jen find Megumi's decomposed body in her home in 2008's Shutter
What did she expect to find after fully knowing Megumi was dead?

That night we learn that Megumi is going to be cremated the following day and Ben believes this will end the hauntings. As Ben and Jen sleep, Megumi appears to Ben in a nightmare. After washing his face, Megumi appears again and gently caresses Ben before sticking her tongue down his throat in an attempt to suffocate him.

Jen wakes up in time to see Ben choking on the ground and demands Megumi leave them alone. In a pretty dumb scene, a curtain attacks Jen as she yells out to Megumi that Ben never loved her. After that burn the window shatters, the curtain lets go of Jen, and Ben is able to breathe again.

The next day the two attend Megumi’s funeral and head back to NYC to their old apartment which I guess they still own. Sometime later, Jen finds the camera that Ben left on the tv at the start of the movie and gets the pictures developed. 

She discovers that while the camera was on the television it took several pictures on its own showing Megumi’s spirit crawling toward a nearby closet.

Jen discovers Megumi's spirit is trying to send her a message in 2008's Shutter
She couldn’t just walk?

Assuming Megumi is trying to tell her something, Jen investigates the closet and finds Ben’s old suitcase with a digital camera inside. Pulling out the memory card, she pops it into the computer and, although we don’t see what she sees, Jen is clearly disturbed and starts crying.

Later Ben arrives home and Jen places the computer on the desk to show him the photos. We see the photos are of Adam and Bruno sexually assaulting Megumi. Jen flips out on Ben and, as she pushes him to the ground, demands he tell her what they did to Megumi.

In a flashback as Ben tells Jen what happened, we learn that Adam, Bruno, and Ben decided the best way to get Megumi to stop obsessing over Ben was to drug her, take sexually explicit photos of her, and then threaten to release them publicly if she didn’t leave Ben alone. As Ben took photos of Adam and Bruno assaulting Megumi, he shows remorse and walks away. By that I mean, he just walks over to the other room and does nothing as it’s heavily implied that Adam and Bruno rape Megumi.

Ben tries to defend his actions by saying he didn’t touch Megumi and Jen gives him the perfect look of disgust and disbelief.

Ben tells Jen about what Adam and Bruno did to Megumi in 2008's Shutter
This is my new favorite “are you fucking kidding me” picture.

Jen realizes this is why Megumi killed Adam and Bruno and that Megumi was trying to warn Jen this whole time. This makes sense but couldn’t she have done it in a less creepy way or maybe before Jen married Ben? Jen ends her relationship with Ben and storms out. Ben attempts to chase after her but the door locks on its own and he angrily calls out to Megumi to show herself as he takes pictures of the apartment.

After several pictures without Megumi, Ben concludes Megumi is gone and throws the camera. As the camera lands on the ground facing him, it takes one more picture and Ben sees Megumi has been atop his back this whole time. Turns out that the neck pain Ben has been having all movie wasn’t from the accident but instead from Megumi using Ben as a chair.

In a picture Ben sees Megumi has been attached his back this whole time in 2008's Shutter
Not a great movie but I like this twist

Ben freaks out and in one of the dumbest moves I’ve ever seen, he decides to electrocute himself using a light fixture in order to get rid of Megumi. Did he think this was going to kill a ghost? If you think it can’t get dumber, in the extended cut of this movie, after Ben shocks himself with the light, which leaves a huge burn on his neck, he decides to use live wires to his forehead to electrocute himself.

Ben is dumb in 2008's Shutter
There are so many options before it had to come to this but I’m not going to say he didn’t deserve it.

We flash forward to an undetermined amount of time later and we see a catatonic Ben in a hospital with large burns on his temple and neck. After a nurse administers medication to Ben, the film ends as we see Megumi still hanging onto Ben.

Megumi is still attached to Ben at the end of 2008's Shutter
Happy-ish ending?


Shutter (2008) is okay and although it’s mainly saved by reveals towards the end, it’s kind of boring. It’s one of those movies that when you retell it, the ending sounds good but if you think too hard about it, you start realizing it doesn’t make a great deal of sense.

The acting was pretty good, the dialogue is nothing special, and the characters are bland and make dumb decisions except for Jen at the end. The most interesting characters were actually Seiko and her ex-boyfriend who runs the Spirit magazine yet we only see them for like 10 minutes of screen time.

Even Megumi’s actions as a ghost don’t make a lot of sense. If she’s trying to warn Jen, why wait until they went to Japan especially if she was around them in New York? Why not have killed Adam and Bruno already? Why have Bruno cut up all those pictures and then make him jump out of a window? If she’s trying to warn Jen, why is she haunting her?

Overall I would only recommend Shutter if you have nothing else to watch and you want to have a movie on in the background that you won’t pay too much attention to.


Stuff to Ignore

Rotten Tomatoes – 11%

Metacritic – 37

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