A Ghost from the Past
Release Date: March 21, 2008
Audience: Teenagers and adults
Runtime: 85 minutes
Distributor: 20th Century Fox
Director: Masayuki Osiai
Writer: Luke Dawson
Address Comments To:Rupert Murdoch, Chairman/CEO of News Corp.
Peter Chernin, President/COO of The Fox Group
Tom Rothman and Jim Gianopulos, Chairmen/CEO
Fox Filmed Entertainment
20th Century Fox Film Corp.
10201 West Pico Blvd.
Los Angeles, CA 90035
Phone: (310) 369-1000
As public dreams, movies have a strong metaphorical level that lends itself to more symbolic, figurative interpretations. Thus, it’s a mistake to consume or interpret a movie solely on a concrete level that may extend the movie’s images too far into what is called “the real world,” to the point of possibly distorting its metaphors or, even worse, distorting the creator’s message.
The new horror movie SHUTTER is a good example of cinema’s metaphorical power. A ghost story, SHUTTER has a deep metaphorical, or symbolic, meaning that combines with the movie’s messages, including its moral ones. And, this is indeed a very moralistic horror movie, from a certain point of view.
In the story, a young couple, Ben and Jane, get married in New York City. They have to fly immediately to Japan, however, where they only have two days’ worth of honeymooning before Ben starts his high-class fashion photography job in Tokyo.
While driving at night to a remote cabin near Mt. Fuji, Jane runs into a thin woman who suddenly appears in the road. The car crashes, causing Jane and Ben to lose consciousness. When they awake, neither they nor the police whom they call on their cell phone can find the woman’s body. At the cabin, however, some ghostly images appear on their honeymoon photos.
In Tokyo, Jane and Ben take more photos that contain bizarre ghostly images. Moreover, they start seeing the ghost of the woman in the road. The editor of a spiritualist magazine tells Jane that these are “spirit photos,” a remnant of some powerful emotions associated with this woman. Jane discovers that the woman was her husband’s former girlfriend when he previously worked in Tokyo, and the ghost’s appearances turn deadly.
The ghost woman in this movie is not just a real ghost; she’s also a ghost from Ben’s past that is hurting him psychologically and endangering his marriage. SHUTTER mines this metaphorical level deeply in an impressive manner. Theologically speaking, the ghost from Ben’s past is also a symbol of a great sin that Ben committed before he met Jane. Thus, SHUTTER has strong theological implications as well as the psychological ones just cited.
That’s as far as the movie goes, however. Hence, there is no salvation in the movie for Ben or his marriage. And, there is no possible forgiveness or redemption for Ben’s sin. Instead, the movie tells viewers that the woman’s ghost is actually a warning for Jane about Ben’s secret past, which reveals the evil sexism within his character. It is at this point that the movie’s dream-like metaphors turn away from the Bible and Christianity and turn toward the occultism of spiritualism and a strong proto-feminism that brooks no possibility of redemption for the masculine psyche (unless, of course, the masculine psyche is embodied by a female or, even better yet according to some radical feminists and Marxists, a lesbian). People of faith and values should shun such an abhorrent worldview because it is false, immoral and anti-God. God condemns it in the Bible, and those who follow Jesus must avoid it.
SHUTTER has some profound psychological and theological themes and metaphors about the effects of guilt and sin, but it stops short of forgiveness and redemption. Instead, it turns toward the occultism of spiritualism and a strong proto-feminism. The ghost of the dead woman, who committed suicide, turns out to be heroic. People of faith and values should shun such an abhorrent occult worldview.