Sunday, October 23, 2011

"Shutter": Ghost in Love

As I noted in the post, Slasher Meets Angry Ghost, a staple of Asian horror is the angry ghost, who "harbors some kind of grudge against the living, and either kills them or makes their lives miserable until resolution is found." The nature of the grudge varies from film to film, and sometimes it is more complex than just anger. This is the case in Shutter (2004), a Thai film in which the ghost's anger is complicated by love.

In Shutter, a young photographer, Tun, and his girlfriend, Jane, accidentally drive their car into a girl one night and flee the scene. When they begin to be haunted by apparitions and weird photographic images, they speculate that they are the target of a ghost who is angry about having been run over. But when they investigate, they learn there is no record of a girl being hit on that road on that night. Whatever is going on, it is not as simple as a ghost who is angry about being the victim of a hit-and-run.

Inquiring further, Tun and Jane learn that the ghost is the spirit of a girl, Natre, who knew Tun in college. In fact, she knew him in the Biblical sense: the two had a romance. Natre was an unpopular girl, and Tun tried to keep the romance secret, and eventually broke it off. But he allowed his friends to rape her, and photographed them while they did so. Natre responded by jumping to her death off a roof.

All of this would seem to provide motive enough for Natre's haunting. She is, no doubt, still angry over the rape and being forced to suicide. But there is something more. Natre still loves Tun. She never stopped. So we learn that, in a Polaroid snapshot (the best imaging technology for photographing ghosts, because it is instant and supposedly can't be faked), Natre is sitting on Tun's shoulders. She has been there throughout the movie, every time he complained about his sore neck or was weighed in a medical examination as being abnormally heavy. She will never get off his shoulders. A wise man consulted in the course of the movie says the dead sometimes want to be near those they loved in their life. This is the case with Natre. She loves Tun, and therefore will haunt him mercilessly.

It is my theory that the focus of the horror film is a deformed and destructive being, and Natre certainly fits the bill--deformed by being a bodiless soul; destructive by hurting Tun and others. But what is most interesting about her is the nature of her destructiveness: love. She brings into a Polaroid-like focus the fact that love, although commonly thought of as a great thing, is actually the source of many of the world's ills. This does not mean we should necessarily abandon it for something else. Love, destructive as it is, is the only love we have.

George Ochoa
Deformed and Destructive Beings: The Purpose of Horror Films

No comments: