Did we just watch a ghost getting tormented by a human? ‘Ghost Lab’ is a horror film that flips the paranormal found-footage trope on its head and features a “ghost researcher” who just won’t leave his subject alone. When their obsessive experiment about ghosts gets too extreme, two intrepid doctors must decide whether to forge ahead or give up. However, things are further complicated because one of them is dead! Part science project, part paranormal haunting, the movie holds true to its name and feels in itself like an interesting experiment. Let’s try to understand it and see what we, like the protagonists, can learn from the ending. SPOILERS AHEAD
Ghost Lab Plot Synopsis
‘Ghost Lab’ opens with two men (whose faces are not seen) making a presentation to a large audience, claiming to change their beliefs forever. We are then transported to a hospital where Wee and Gla are young doctors. The latter keeps bringing up ghosts and does so when a nurse describes a gruesomely burnt man who was admitted to the hospital. However, Wee insists that there is no scientific backing for the existence of ghosts, and therefore, don’t exist.
Soon after, while talking by the hospital vending machine, the two see the ghost of the burnt man. Gla is excited and reveals that he has been studying ghosts ever since he glimpsed the ghost of his father as a child. He then introduces Wee to the large body of research he has already done, and Wee agrees to join him in attempting to demystify the phenomenon of ghosts so they can be seen by everyone. Gla calls their research the Northern Lights Quest.
During their experiments, Wee’s mother, who has been ill for many years, passes away. Shattered, Wee decides that the best way to advance the experiment is by killing himself so that they can have a live ghost test subject for their research. However, when he is unable to kill himself, Gla, in the spur of the moment, commits suicide.
Ghost Lab Ending: Why Does Gla Kill Himself?
A shattered Wee then spends the next 3 months waiting for any sign of contact from the other side from Gla. Haunted by guilt for the death of his friend, he attempts to end his life by suicide but is mysteriously saved. Excited, Wee realizes that it is Gla that saves him because ghosts can exert more force on their physical environment when they are worried. Gradually, Wee begins to torment Gla’s spirit, trying to goad it to show itself. He does this by emotionally manipulating Gla’s grieving mother and even drugging his girlfriend. Finally, Gla appears in his decaying body and kills Wee.
During his subsequent out-of-body experience, Wee meets a benevolent Gla, like the kind he used to know. Gla implores him to end the experiment, and after a time, Wee finally gives in and is returned to the realm of the living. In the closing scenes of ‘Ghost Lab,’ we see Wee delete his research and acknowledge that sometimes things end in a mess, but also that they did all learn something from it. We then see Gla as a benevolent, smiling spirit on the beach from his childhood, holding a reputed scientific journal with him and Wee on the cover. However, in real life, Wee’s research is rejected by the publication.
So did Gla kill himself for nothing? Even though the spirit of Gla eventually convinces Wee that they have learned something, and therefore his death is not in vain, the living Gla had a very different view of what he wanted to achieve. Ever since glimpsing his father’s ghost as a young boy, he had been obsessed with seeing them. Perhaps most tellingly, we see Gla visit multiple famously haunted sites across the world and even dabble in dark magic himself, all to catch a glimpse of a ghost. Therefore, his dedication to his research into ghosts is unsurpassed.
However, he doesn’t even consider death as an option to further the experiment until Wee suggests killing himself. At this point, Gla is wracked by shock and guilt since he was the one that introduced a now suicidal Wee to his experiment. Hence, the heavy burden of guilt also plays a significant role in Gla killing himself. This is also hinted at by how he looks almost relieved when Wee is unable to kill himself and promptly takes the gun and dies by suicide.
Therefore, it is not just the motivation to further his experiment but also to escape the guilt of his friend potentially killing himself that Gla quickly kills himself. Hence, it is also not an entirely selfless act. This is also why Wee is then so miserable and possibly goes down the dark path that he does, because now, apart from feeling guilty about not saving his mother, he also has to live with the fact that Gla killed himself because he was too weak to do so.
Does Gla’s Girlfriend Find Out The Truth?
Gla’s girlfriend Mai is unable to get over his death as she cannot fathom why he would kill himself without saying anything to her. She is wracked with sadness and guilt for not being aware of such a significant aspect of her boyfriend’s life and demise. Therefore, Mai continues to question his death, much to the chagrin of Wee, who tries to dissuade her so he can continue his experiments in peace. However, when Gla sees how much Mai is suffering due to his death, he becomes obsessed with telling her the truth and even attacks Wee to get him to do so.
Despite the paranormal researcher’s multiple attempts, his living counterpart does not allow his girlfriend to find out the truth. At the end, when Wee gives her Gla’s laptop, it seems for a moment that she will finally get to learn about Gla’s long-running experiment and get some semblance of an explanation about his death. Alas, a few moments later, we see Wee deleting the folder containing all their research. Therefore, Mai most likely never gets to learn the truth about the Northern Lights Quest or her boyfriend’s associated death.
Why Doesn’t Wee Die Despite Trying Multiple Times?
In a subtle poetic touch that possibly hints at the film’s message, we see Wee attempting to kill himself on multiple occasions and not dying. It is he who introduces the idea of dying to further the experiment, however on both his successive attempts, Wee is first saved by the ghost of his mother and then by the ghost of his friend, Gla.
The character most haunted by guilt and who questions whether he has anything to live for, Wee, is the one who is forced to live while his friend Gla leaves his caring family and girlfriend behind and kills himself. Wee finally gets peace when he realizes that he must move on and remember that he learned something valuable. We see a rejuvenated and inspired Wee at the end of the movie, rid of his guilt and no longer living out his life in the hospital alongside his ailing mother. It seems as if the deaths of his mother and friend, and Wee’s eventual acceptance of it, helps him reclaim his life.
What Are the Ghost Lab Experiments?
The Ghost Lab experiments, also known as the Northern Lights Quest, started many years ago as Gla’s attempt to make ghosts visible to everyone. Once Wee joins Gla, the two attempt to use a scientific method of inquiry and undertake experiments. However, they realize that they need a ghost volunteer, which eventually results in Wee’s plan for killing himself since he already has all the knowledge regarding the experiment and could continue to work on it from the other, paranormal side. The two also realize the need to categorize ghosts to classify them and separate them under ghosts of known and unknown people.
Wee’s moment of inspiration that informs the direction his experimentation subsequently takes is when he compares ghosts to the wind. He realizes that, much like a storm that is made up of invisible wind, he has to imbibe the ghost with enough energy so that it can be seen and experienced. He then embarks on a campaign of tormenting his friend’s ghost to extract more and more violent rebuttals until Gla’s horrific ghost finally shows up in physical form. So agitated does Wee make Gla’s spirit that it reclaims his body and attacks Wee as a rotting corpse.
In the end, we see the data from the Ghost Lab experiments deleted by Wee. His phone, which held footage of Gla’s violence against him, also looks burnt and destroyed the last we see it. Though it seems the Northern Lights Quest is officially over, it’s worth noting that Wee did send his findings to the scientific journal. This means that at least one copy of the Ghost Lab research still exists, and despite not being published, it might see the light of day sometime in the future and possibly inspire someone to continue the experiments.
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