In the 50s-set Shutter Island, Scorsese is the Personal Journey film historian at play, getting Hitchcock in there, and Val Lewton and Jacques Tourneur, and Powell and Pressburger, and more besides, even throwing in some obvious rear projection -- in the opening scene -- but to do more than just pay homage to the era; it makes a story point that pays off later. The horror is both traditional -- rats, castles, a graveyard, the darkest and stormiest of dark and stormy nights -- and psychological, as in hallucinations, dreams and flashbacks, repression and suppression. Some of the latter stuff might put you in mind of Vertigo -- although it's not that good, that uncanny, that unforgettable -- and, appropriate to the times, the heavyweight noir-era fears that slosh around in the head of our hero (Leonardo DiCaprio) include Nazi death camps and doctors, H-bombs and Korean War brainwashing (noir subtexts becoming visible). But that's all horror business -- does it add up to anything serious? I think so: Shutter Island seems to have more genuine emotional weight than Scorsese's three earlier films with DiCaprio, which is partly to do with where the material eventually takes us -- where it also crosses over with Vertigo is in a depiction of loss -- and partly to do with the maturing of this actor-director relationship, with DiCaprio now Scorsese's reliable subject and muse. Glenn Kenny has even made a persuasive case for it being a personal film (see this response too, from Jim Emerson) and the ending seemed to me to depend on an important moral or philosophical choice that almost runs like a Paul Schrader moment. And when you're done thinking about that, consider what the moment says about the German officer's suicide earlier.
PICTURE: Arnold Bocklin's "Isle of the Dead'' (1883), a direct influence on the 1940s Val Lewton/Mark Robson film of the same name. Last year, Scorsese named Isle of the Dead as one of his 11 (why 11?) scariest horror movies of all time.