Release Date: March 1, 2013 (VOD), April 5, 2013 (limited theatrical)
Mans Marlind and Bjorn Stein
Julianne Moore as Cara Harding
Jeffrey DeMunn as Dr. Harding
Jonathan Rhys Meyers as Adam
Cara is a psychiatrist struggling to raise her only daughter, Sammy, after her husband’s unexpected death. When treating patients she relies on hard evidence and views their testimony skeptically. Yet in her personal life, her faith in God is unquestioned. Both her professional and religious paths are challenged by a new patient referred to her by her father (also a psychiatrist). Although Multiple Personality Disorder was long ago dismissed as a product of therapeutic suggestion, Cara reluctantly begins to realize that there is more than one consciousness lurking in Adam’s body. Only one of them controls him at any given time and neither remembers the time passed when one of the others was in control. Yet, the further Cara investigates the more she begins to understand that a fractured mental pathology may not be responsible for Adam’s symptoms… Especially when those close to her begin to drop like flies and their personalities start showing up in Adam.
This is not a bad movie, but its flaws are not hard to spot either. The most glaring and irritating of them are the unanswered questions about Adam’s nature. Who/What Adam has become is partially resolved, but holes linger and the audience is left attempting to cobble clues together with assumptions which lead to conclusions based more on individual perspective than hard evidence. Maybe this is what Michael Cooney intended, yet since the movie is pushing two hours, the more likely explanation is that critical scenes were cut from the film.
The other flaw was the post-production decision to change the title of the film for the US release. The rest of the English-speaking world knows this one as Shelter. Changing the title to 6 Soulsmay intrigue at first, but detracts from enjoyment of the film since it takes some time for all six personalities (or souls) to be revealed and since the audience understands it to be six, some of the tension is sapped.
Those two issues aside, Shelter (as it was known) does not deserve the mediocre reviews it garnered on its two-year voyage around the globe. Two reasons jump to mind why this could be: 1) The atmosphere of the film is a gothic slice of Americana– a particularly localized one that is very dark and creepy, but not easily relatable outside the US; 2) The story is bizarre and unfamiliar. It demands close attention and a willingness to participate in the investigation.
On the technical end, there’s not that much gore or expensive effects, but the acting is solid. As Cara, Julianne Moore (Clarice in Hannibal- among other films) expertly sells the dichotomy of not accepting supernatural explanations professionally, yet maintaining faith personally. She also balances that tightrope of frantic terror mixed with attack-dog protectiveness when defending her child from Adam. Jonathan Rhys Meyers ably portrays the different personalities (or souls) running around in Adam’s head (or body), delivering a particularly memorable performance of his encounter with one of their mother’s.
Writer Cooney (known for Identity and the Jack Frost movies) deserves accolades for a unique story that has no contemporary equal, but does share a theme similar to Wes Craven’s The Serpent and the Rainbow. It drags a little early on, but patience will be rewarded, because these slow scenes serve a purpose critical to the outcome. In the end, this is not so much a tale of good versus evil, but faith and the faithless. What happens to souls who lack faith when they die? He adroitly builds a mythology about lost souls in the context of Christian belief and Appalachian folk magic. Unanswered questions aside, the narrative schema is fascinating and forms a great basis from which to build a truly disturbing theme. The ending is also relatively unexpected.
6 Souls as a movie is only average and in that context only earns two and a half Freak Heads. Yet, originality earns Cooney’s latest cinematic narrative half a head more.