PLOT: As a seasoned psychiatrist tries to cure a case of a man's mistaken personality disorder, her family becomes enraptured in mysterious curse of ancient witchcraft.
REVIEW: Walking into 6 SOULS (previously titled SHELTER), all I knew was that it that starred Julianne Moore with Jonathan Rhys Meyers, and was made way the hell back in 2009. So long in fact that Swedish filmmakers - Mans Marlind and Bjorn Stein - ages ago made their follow up, UNDERWORLD: AWAKENING, released in January 2012. Naturally expectations were lower than most, how can a movie that's been sitting around collecting dust for so long be of any merit at all? Shockingly, in a tale that struck me as a twisted lovechild of FALLEN and IDENTITY, 6 SOULS was nowhere near as bad as anticipated. In fact, there were honestly no less than three instances in the movie that actually gave me real, legitimate, hair-raising chills. Story issues, pacing, third act absurdities, slightly overlong running time...all fair gripes...but these things sort of pale in the wake of such ever elusive movie chills.
Meet Cara Harding (Julianne Moore), a faith-tested forensic psychiatrist who now sides with science after her husband was brutally murdered one Christmas eve. She's recently proven multiple personality disorders are not real, but takes a trying case of such at the behest of her father (Jeffrey DeMunn), also an expert psychiatrist. Enter Adam (Rhys Meyers), a troubled young man who unknowingly harbors multiple personalities, the primary alter being a boy named David Bernburg. As Cara tries to crack the case, that's to say CURE Adam's condition, she comes to realize that all of Adam's alters are murder victims from the past. Why the hell is this happening? Who or what is causing it? How can Cara get to the bottom of it without endangering herself, her father, brother and daughter? Such dilemmas crux the better part of 6 SOULS...some answers more satisfyingly provided than others.
It's tough to synopsize where the film goes from there, including a number of twists, so I won't go into too much detail. I will say an interesting if somewhat misguided plot thread involving mountain witches and ancient reincarnation curses comes into play. It's where the movie shifts from psychological thriller to the supernatural that ultimately hinders the believability of the first half of the movie. Yet, the mystery and intrigue kept the film from ever being boring, and to me personally, no matter how convoluted the plotline increasingly became, those three or four stints of visceral, spine-tingling moments throughout the film outweighed the rest. I'm not sure that qualifies 6 SOULS as a good movie, but in an age where most horror/thriller flicks rarely if ever deliver such physical responses, credit must be given where it's due.
Technically, the film is very well produced. The production value is extremely high, the cinematography beautiful and sweeping. It doesn't feel like a cheap movie at all. Rhys Meyers gives several convincing performances in one body, replete with varied accents and inflections. His alters transition with a creepy, violent snap back of the neck, spume and all, before coming to with complete clarity as a new soul (hence the title). Solid support from character acting vets DeMunn and Francis Conroy add instant cred to the picture, but the real reason we care at all is because of Julianne Moore. Not that she gives her best turn, far from it, but she kept her performance grounded enough to keep the film from spilling into the laughably absurd. It's not what she does, but what she doesn't do in the film that impressed me. She never goes over the top when she so easily could have (and most would), instead retains a sort of sleepy, unimpressed mien in the face of grave danger. If that sounds like she phoned it in, I didn't get that impression. I felt she chose to play outlandish circumstances with great reservation...doing her best to make it believable. Had she gone the hysterical, histrionic route, the film would be too ridiculous for words.
But for all the films plaudits, the main weakness seems to be Michael Cooney's screenplay. In fairness, how much the script changed over the arduous course of making the movie is anyone's guess, and may not be entirely Cooney's fault. After all, the man did pen the marvelous IDENTITY. Then again he also wrote AND directed JACK FROST and JACK FROST 2, so his culpability for the confusion of 6 SOULS might not be a stretch. Unlike IDENTITY though, where the mystery was so satisfyingly unpeeled by the end, 6 SOULS feels too complicated, too messy, too expository to match such satisfaction. Plot holes, illogic decisions and over-explanation, especially in the third act, seem to hamper the overall experience of the film. That said, I did enjoy the way the finale played out. A bit predictable, sure, but dark and pessimistic, which I always enjoy.
In all, I'd recommend fans of Julianne Moore or Rhys Meyers to give 6 SOULS a look, as well as to those who love slowly unrolled (if muddled) mysteries. Chills in the film range from the psychological during the first half of the film (more effective) to supernatural ones later in the film (which are less plausible), brought about by seasoned performers who know how to sell a thrill. That said, the film gets bogged down in the third act, new characters emerge, ungodly exposition follows suit, as does a typical chase-em-through-the-woods horror cliche. However, because the film delivered to me personally a handful of hair-raising moments, I'm willing to forgive the intellectual aspects of the film in favor of the visceral.