A newly promoted police detective finds himself questioning a brilliantly deceptive photographer over the disappearances of a young model. Read on for our review of writer/director Andres Ramirez’s thriller Shutter.
Shutter is an interesting and unsettling little thriller as there is an underlying presence of evil that permeates throughout the short’s entire 10-minute runtime. As the film opens, we are shown silhouettes of models and hear the clicking shutter sound of a camera as they are photographed. Then we are placed in the middle of an interrogation room as newly promoted detective Mark, (played stoically by Justin Hernandez) questions a cold and calculating photographer Charley (JT Harper). A girl has gone missing, she was a model, and Charley was the last person to see her alive.
The evil we sense comes from chief suspect Charley as he sits relatively still in his chair opposite his interrogator. We instantly have a feeling that this guy is not right; that there is something a little off about him. His speaking voice has the stilted arrogance of a man who feels so superior to others he can hardly be bothered to interact with the simple-mindedness of ordinary people. The performance of JT Harper as Charley is the real stand out in Shutter – his vocal ticks and otherworldly delivery bring to mind a mixture of Anthony Hopkins’ Hannibal Lecter and Kevin Spacey’s John Doe. He is a dispassionate machine, clever with words but seemingly devoid of emotion. He does laugh in one scene but it sounds forced and faked and is actually more frightening because of it. Harper is ably supported by Justin Hernandez who is very convincing as the straight-arrow, new kid on the block, detective.
It is partly down to the Harper’s performance and the interplay of the two main characters that means Silence of The Lambs springs instantly to mind, in Clarice Starling and Hannibal Lecter, Lambs gave birth to two of the most memorable characters in movies. Of course, Shutter isn’t as polished as Jonathan Demme’s masterpiece and really I’m being a little unfair comparing the two, but it does at least hint at it and, for a tiny independent short film, this means they definitely got something right.
Basically a two-hander, Shutter starts out as a simple crime procedural and intercuts its questioning scenes with scenes featuring the missing model’s (a suitably cast Yhana Sibelle) last hours in Charley’s studio. The script written by director Ramirez leads to some nice interactions between the cast but does leave some unanswered questions. It’s not that we need our hand-holding throughout the piece, as there is enough to suggest we’ve come to the right conclusion ourselves, it’s just that not being officially shown does lead to some frustration.
The cinematography of Alex Zaij also reminds us of Lambs, with the darker more solemn interrogation shots contrasting well to the bright and bubbly studio shots. There are also moments and images in the photography studio, particularly in Charley’s darkroom, that give us shades of 60’s classics like Peeping Tom and Blow Out. The production design by Xue Tong also deserves a mention because the blues and green of the interrogation room and the primary red and whites of the studio suit the mood and also look great on camera.
Overall Shutter is a decent thriller with two great performances anchoring the film in a reality that is both believable and threatening.