Shaggy 'wolf' stories

Shutter Island
Starring Leonardo DiCaprio, Mark Ruffalo, Ben Kingsley, Michelle Williams
Directed By Martin Scorsese

The Wolfman
Starring Benicio Del Toro, Anthony Hopkins, Emily Blunt, Hugo Weaving
Directed by Joe Johnson

Have you heard this one?

So, there’s this guy, a professional plying his trade in major cities.

He is asked to travel to a far-off location to investigate the disappearance of someone. The location is secluded and mysterious.

When he arrives at the location, he finds a small collection of large buildings in the middle of nowhere surrounded by nothing but vast expanses of forbidding nature. It’s foggy and gloomy with thick underbrush and spindly, knotted trees.

He enters the campus and finds that it is forbidding and spooky.

He meets with the people who run the place and the other few inhabitants — who are mysterious, brooding and hunkered down in their own cloistered worlds. Amazingly, he does not seem to find these inhabitants all that strange and instead goes about investigating the disappearance.

He discovers a lot of odd things while conducting his investigation. He explores the countryside and interviews the people, but much of it just doesn’t add up.

As he continues to run into inexplicable dead-ends, he finds that he cannot leave the campus. He is trapped by his circumstances of wanting to help and the isolation of the location.

As he explores more of the isolated area, he comes upon some people who warn him about a dangerous menace in the area and that he is also in danger.

As he cannot seem to leave, he tries to find a way to avoid this danger, but, regrettably, it finds him.

He tries to get help from these people — to get answers and assistance — but they become more and more suspicious and strange.

So, he gets more and more belligerent with the few inhabitants. This animosity creates further danger and risk.

He wanders more and more around the environs. People start to disappear or are hurt or killed.

He starts to have disturbing flashbacks of other people — not the same as the inhabitants — being killed or torn apart. These flashbacks become more and more frequent and increasingly freaky and twisted.

He begins to wonder if he might be going mad. There are suggestions that there are demons within his own mind or that he himself is the source of the disappearance and troubles.

There also are suggestions that he may need psychiatric treatment for his paranoia and disorientation. So, he is given pills and subjected to torments. He is even housed in a sanatorium for the criminally insane, but manages to find his way out to roam around the isolated environs yet again.

It all becomes more and more mysterious and menacing until it reaches a climax where it turns out that he is the very person whose disappearance he came to investigate. He in fact experiences a fundamental transformation and experiences the shock of self-awareness about the nature of his true self.

As he finally learns of the true nature of the original person’s disappearance, he has a final showdown with the people who run the place. It is a violent struggle that is also tinged with pathos and poignancy as these very people are trying to help him even though they know that they cannot — because his true self is so entrenched and unreformable.

So, as he cries out for help, he finally asks, “What was this all about? What am I doing here? Am I on Shutter Island, or have I become The Wolfman?”

And the people who run the place turn to him and say:

“Yes, you are the shuttered wolf!”

Doug Young is The Statesman’s outstanding film critic. He works for U.S. Sen. Mark Udall as an environmental policy advisor.