On DVD: Shutter and Asylum

It hasn't been a particularly good year for horror. Sure, we came out of the gate this year with Cloverfield, but the big screen efforts have for the most part been duds, and the DVD releases have been no better. Take for example two new examples -- Shutter and Asylum. Their core ideas are simple enough, but the films don't even register on the "fun night with beer" meter.

Shutter isn't so much bad as it is boring. The Japanese horror trend has come and gone and we're now just scraping out the remnants from the Hollywood machine with a rubber spatula and serving them up in hopes that nothing goes to waste. Using the clever ad campaign from White Noise, the movie sells itself as a fantastical story woven around real-world phenomena. Sadly, fantastical is a word far too kind. How about contrived? Tired? Weak? When a pair of newlyweds spend their honeymoon in Japan as a lead-up to the husband's new job there, all seems blissful until a late-night accident when they hit and kill a woman in the road. The lack of a body puts a decidedly supernatural spin on things, but then the new blushing bride (played by Rachel Taylor -- no one you should know) begins to be haunted by the woman she ran over ... as images in her photographs.

OOOOOOOH! Scaaaarryyy!

The biggest problem here is that the script put far too much focus on trying to get the photo gimmick to work and spent absolutely no time giving us reasons to like or care about the characters or their relationship. So whenever they're put in peril, you simply could care less. Taylor and co-star Joshua Jackson (Dawson's Creek) register so low with their chemistry that you barely believe they're dating, let alone a newly married couple. And as the story develops, we're given reasons to like one of the characters even less, making you not only bored, but kind of angry that you're watching a film with such a flimsy premise and no characterization.

And just wait for the killer explanation! Once you find out why this girl is being haunted, you'll nominate it for a Golden "You've got to be kidding me award" for excellence in stretching plausibility. Really? That's why she's haunting them? What the hell? This was about as scary and entertaining as The Messengers, but with half the eye-candy FX.

MGM's 'Asylum'Then there's Asylum. There's no way to mince words on this -- it is an abysmal, unspeakably awful piece of garbage, dug up and propped against the DVD wall to give some illusion of life in this festering corpse of a project. A leftover, almost completely abandoned two-year-old effort, this no doubt secured release when its star (Sarah Roemer) found success as the sexy girl-next-door love interest in last year's Disturbia. Sadly this was before she had any pull or direction from someone like DJ Caruso and it proves to be one of those lifeless, meandering wastes of time that most starlets begin their careers with only to be embarrassed by later.

I don't simply dislike this film as much as I just actively hate it. Directed by David Richard Ellis (Snakes on a Plane, Final Destination 2), this film lacks the irony of the former while lacking the creativity of the latter. It introduces characters that aren't just stereotypes, but stereotypes of stereotypes. The loudmouth pretty-boy jock is obnoxious beyond reason. The nerd, too nerdy and supersmart to be believable. The bimbo, too giggly. The mysterious emo love interest, too jerky. Not only is there not a single piece of believable dialog to be found among this group of thrown together misfits -- the fact that the film's low budget only affords six students in this gigantic dormitory cannot explain why these people would EVER stay in the same room together, rather than just sitting and staring at a wall. These are characters so bad, so over the top, that you simply CANNOT wait for the killing to begin, just so they will shut the hell up.

But then the killing begins. And it kinda makes the dialogue look plausible by comparison. All of a sudden, threatening a guy with mace really does seem fun and flirty, and introducing yourself by saying "Wow, you have great t**s" could be the beginning of a lasting friendship. Because when you have to suffer through the setup and execution of the story about a college dorm converted from an old asylum where a mad doctor performed bizarre experiments on teenagers, was subsequently killed in an uprising, and now stalks the halls as a ghost killing new patients with the repetitive process of making us relive a scene from their life before he cuts them up with a lobotomy blade of some sort -- well, you kind of pray for that award winning dialogue to return.

I hate this movie. I'd say I hate it with the fire of a thousand suns, but I can't. This movie is getting everything it deserves -- a slow death on DVD where people will pick it up by accident and then curse its name for just how painfully terrible it is. There is nothing, not one single moment that I can find worthwhile in this film. I would watch Shutter again half a dozen times before even thinking of poisoning my DVD player with its offensive tripe.

I think I'm going to go to the garage and beat my copy with a hammer until it is unrecognizable as a DVD.