Shutter Island may be, when 2010 is over and done with, the scariest movie to come out this year. It’s not just the filmmaking — it’s the premise. Effectively we have an entire genre of movies from The Matrix t0 Avatar that embrace the concept of living through a vessel, in some sense, for good or ill. At the same time it’s a concept we’ve grasped pretty firmly with the explosion of the Internet and on which David Foster Wallace hit pretty surely on the nose in Infinite Jest, with characters conversing basically via Skype (this was published in 1994) but wearing all manner of absurd masks to adopt new personas/conceal their real ones. I have a Facebook account and a Twitter account and a blog with my name on it and different commenter names on various blogs. In many ways, I can choose exactly who I want to be on a daily basis.
Shutter Island takes that freedom and shoves it right back in your face. It says: No. All of your efforts to outrun the past will fail. Your avatar will never be strong enough. There is no time but now, no day but today, and you are nothing more than the sum of your days. In an era where literally everything points in the opposite direction, Shutter Island is terrifying because it’s right.