Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Original Shutter directors 'satisfied' with remake

The Hollywood remake of the 2004 hit horror Shutter opens in local cinemas on Thursday, and ahead of the release, the directors of the original, Banjong Pisanthanakul and Parkpoom Wongpoom, offered their verdict: It's okay, they say.

The top-grossing Thai film of 2004, the original starred Ananda Everingham as photographer who starts seeing ghostly images in the pictures he's taking. The mystery behind these spectral shadows, blurs and lights has deadly consequences for anyone he comes into contact with, and his wife.

In the remake, Joshua Jackson and Rachael Taylor are a young American couple. He's a photographer, assigned to a fashion shoot in Tokyo, and after a car wreck kills a young woman (same as the original), they start seeing ghostly images in their photos. The trailers hint at a few tips of the hat to the Thai original, though the "Asianess" of the proceedings will also be due in large part to the remake's director, Masayuki Ochiai. And when it comes time for Jackson's character to meet the ghostly Japanese girl Megumi, things are a lot more overt than the chaste Thai version, with the trailers hinting at some ghostly getting-it-on.

Banjong says he doesn't think Jackson is as good in the role as Ananda was. The Daily Xpress has more:

Joshua's character just isn't the kind of guy you can forgive when he does something wrong. With Ananda, you could," says Banjong, who would loved to have seen Orlando Bloom and Scarlett Johansson in the Hollywood remake.

"My favorite part is the Megumi character [Nate in Thai version]. She's a pitiful, nerdish girl, with a similar background to Nate," says Banjong, adding that he's also impressed with the art direction.

Parkpoom says that while he's satisfied with the remake, he had hoped to see the project handed to an American director.

"Masayuki is Japanese, so he shares similar beliefs. I think an American would have had a different interpretation."

The Shutter boys also chatted with The Star in Malaysia, which offered a broader survey of the current state of Asian horror. Here's an excerpt from that article:

Asian horror films are more simple in terms of special effects – we are concerned more with the atmosphere in the movie, the feeling of fear which comes mainly from believing in something that we feel close to, rather than from scaring the audience through excitement and special effects,” said Parkpoom and Banjong in an e-mail interview.

As for the current status of horror films, the duo said that the genre was experiencing a downward trend and that it would take yet another pioneering horror film to revive it.

“We think it is a cycle. Once there is a big hit, there will be lots of horror films and audiences will get to watch them until they get bored.

“And then there will have to be a ‘hero’ among horror films, like The Ring or The Sixth Sense, that will make audiences want to see horror movies again.

“At the moment, it is down time for horror films, we think. We have to wait and see which film will initiate a comeback for the genre.”

When asked whether there was a formula for making good horror films, both gave their own perspective.

Banjong said: “For me, in a horror film you have to anticipate the audience’s feelings. You have to make them feel scared and shocked.

“It’s different from other genres of films where you can pretty much do what you want, even if you are trying to extract a certain emotional reaction from the audience.”

Parkpoom, on the other hand, had this to offer: “It’s really not that different from other kinds of filmmaking. It is just a different kind of entertainment the audience is after. They want to be scared.

“There is no fixed formula, though, because audiences are getting smarter every day.”

Finally, we asked what advice they could offer to up-and-coming film directors.

“You need to have new ideas and a strong and interesting plot. There will always be a need for that in the market,” said Banjong, while Parkpoom advised: “Don’t just follow trends. Work on what you believe in.”

Shutter is the first all-Thai remake to be completed. Pen-ek Ratanaruang's second film, 6ixtynin9 had been up for a remake, but I don't think anything ever came of it. The 2002 transvestite-gay-transgender comedy adventure Saving Private Tootsie was also optioned for a remake, but it has fallen off the map.

Future remake projects include Banjong and Parkpoom's second film, last year's twin horror, Alone. The Weinstein Company bought the remake rights to 13 Beloved, but recently released the original in the U.S. as 13: Game of Death on their Dimension Extreme DVD label.

After getting their start in Thailand, the Pang Brothers are well entrenched back in their native Hong Kong (they will be back in Thailand this year, filming Storm Riders 2), and have two remakes: their 2002 hit The Eye, and their 1999 debut, Bangkok Dangerous. Starring Jessica Alba, The Eye remake was released in the US last month to tepid reviews. Originally a Hong Kong-Singaporean co-production filmed in Hong Kong and Thailand, the remake was directed by David Moreau and Xavier Palud. For Bangkok Dangerous, the Pangs directed their own remake, but cast Nicolas Cage in the lead role that had previously been held by a deaf mute character. Shooting was wrapped up in 2006 in Bangkok, and it had been scheduled for release earlier this year, but has since been moved to summer.

More information:

(Photo info: Joshua Jackson in Shutter (2008); Banjong Pisanthanakul, left, and
Parkpoom Wongpoom in a photo courtesy of GMM Tai Hub)

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