“…It is unpleasant and disconcerting to see this giant, predatory creature stalk slowly around the bound women, periodically opening its jaws to give voice to a murdered woman dying. It is possible to make out the word, ‘please,’ as this bear basically forces the team to listen to their colleague pleading for her life in vain – all the while fearing their own deaths.
As they process what they are experiencing, the three women conclude that the bear must have absorbed the dying voice of Sheppard as it killed her – another result of mutation, and The Shimmer scrambling every living thing inside itself. This creates a dual regard for this predator. On the one hand, it is a killer that preyed upon Sheppard and Thorensen, and threatens the rest of the team. On the other hand, it is a creature caught in The Shimmer through no fault of its own, and its wailing in Sheppard’s voice gives it a pitiful, victimised quality for itself.
But, it is the fact that its use of Sheppard’s voice – intentional or not – lured Thorensen out to be attacked and killed that is most striking about this entire scene. It speaks to the appropriation of women’s pain – of their experience of violence, and of the nature of their struggle in general – for the purpose of perpetrating further cruelty. We are literally hearing the final part of Sheppard’s story from the mouth of the being that is responsible for her pain. This is colonisation – both actually, and metaphorically.
And colonisation is kind of the greater point, isn’t it? The Shimmer is literally – though slowly – colonising the planet, just as sections of humanity have brutally colonised other sections of humanity for centuries; just as men have colonised the female experience forever; just as humans and their technology have colonised the natural world increasingly since industrialisation. This theme is reflected elsewhere in the story, too. Lena colonises the emotional consciousness of her colleague, Daniel, for example, and then rejects him after extra-marital sex. Daniel then attempts to colonise Lena’s experience of grieving for her missing husband – despite her rejection of him.
Paired with the point of colonisation is the idea of identity. In the beginning of the film, we see Daniel questioning Lena’s sense of identity as a woman with a husband, and we see Lena questioning the nature of her husband’s identity when he mysteriously returns and seems to be a different, even less communicative character than before. When the women are travelling through The Shimmer, they each begin to question the way in which they are changing, too…”