JULY 1, 2013
Whoever decided to change the title to 6 Souls from its original Shelter should be slapped, mocked, and fired (in any order), as it not only makes the movie sound like a generic thriller, but it also spoils the damn movie! I'll explain in detail in a bit, but it would be like calling The Usual Suspects "The Interrogation of Keyser Soze" or something, not to mention generally gives away something that's supposed to be a twist in the narrative itself (in addition to giving us the exact count, I mean). I'd bet my left nut that the decision was to get the movie higher up in alphabetically listed VOD queues (as a "6" would be near the top, whereas "Shelter" would be way far down), but it's a huge slap in the face to the filmmakers.
And they've been through enough, frankly. The movie was actually shot in 2008 (!) and is just now being released here in the States (it opened in some markets in 2010 under its original title). Needless to say, it's from the Weinsteins, whose vaults probably have movies that were produced in the 90s. Having watched it, I can almost see why they'd have trouble marketing the movie to a mass audience - the midway genre shift alone would be a tough nut to crack in a 2 minute trailer (which thankfully doesn't fully spoil much - they're showing late movie events but without context it's not exactly the same as, say, Cast Away's trailer having Hanks back on land talking about the island), but then they also had to get around the fact that its star (Julianne Moore) had appeared in three genre misfires in a row (Blindness, Next, and the terrific but box office failure Children of Men). But still, it didn't deserve to be all but dumped direct to DVD (it played a couple theaters to save face, but its gross went unreported) or shelved for so long - give it a chance!
Not that it's some abandoned masterpiece or anything, but it's a perfectly enjoyable little thriller, and one that dares to go into some rather nutty territory in its second half - which I can always appreciate. It starts off like any old psychological thriller: Moore plays a shrink who doubts the existence of multiple personality disorder, and has just successfully gotten a murderer executed by lethal injection by proving that the "other" he was blaming for the crimes (which would net him a guilty by insanity verdict instead of death) was just an act. But then her dad (Jeffrey DeMunn), who is also a shrink, has her meet with his new patient (Jonathan Rhys Meyers), a man who claims to be both David and Adam, with some pretty convincing differences between them that seemingly can't be faked (such as the fact that one of them is color blind). As she begins to doubt her stance on MPD, she realizes he CAN'T be faking... but also that it's not a mere case of a split personality.
Now, this is where the new title hurts the movie. When the man suddenly has a third personality that seems to be that of a rock star who killed himself 15 years prior, it's clear that he's not suffering a mental disorder, but that he seems to be absorbing certain souls for whatever reason. The title doesn't give that much away so neither will I, but the movie's called 6 Souls, not "3 Souls", making the turn of events in the 3rd less and less exciting as it goes on - unless you don't know how to count, there's little surprise what it's building toward and when it'll end. And again, the idea of it being "souls" instead of completely fabricated personalities is itself set up as a surprise in the movie, but with the title telling us right off the bat what's going on, it renders a lot of the early psychiatry based scenes much less interesting than they should be. Longtime readers of the site know that I try to avoid knowing anything about a movie before I sit down to watch it, and this was no exception - but yet I was able to piece most of it together long before the halfway point.
But again, it's not that bad. Moore is always great to watch, even if she seems to be a bit old for the role she's playing (she's only 13 years younger than DeMunn, playing her father, but a whopping 17 years OLDER than the actor playing her brother). Not that she LOOKS that old, but come on, she's been prominent in movies since the early 90s - we know she can't be any less than 45, though the movie is clearly setting her up as 35 at most, which can be distracting. On the other hand, she's got great chemistry with all of her co-stars - pretty much every scene is her and ____ in a one on one conversation (DeMunn and Nate Corddry as her brother/his son only have a brief scene together), and in some movies set up like that you might dread a certain pairing due to poor chemistry. But everyone has their strengths; DeMunn is a delight, playfully balancing his role as an opposing colleague but also an obviously proud father, and her loving bickering with Corddry is charming as well. And the age difference actually HELPS with Rhys Meyers - there's little chance of a romantic pairing, and when he's in David (the nicest/most sympathetic personality) mode she can be almost motherly toward him, which is more interesting than the umpteenth "shrink falls for his/her patient" scenario.
And that second half - man. Even with the title nonsense I was never expecting it go to into territory that reminded me more of a certain 1988 horror film (one with a somewhat frustratingly MISLEADING title, now that I think about it) than Identity or whatever other MPD-based horror/thriller movie, not to mention something that squarely put it in horror territory. It can be a bit hokey, particularly when Moore watches a film from 1918 that is clearly modern-made and just doctored to look old (that sort of phoniness always takes me out of a movie), and the final moment seems to be equal parts cop-out (it's a pretty grim finale) and setup for a sequel. The editing can also be a bit of an issue; at 112 minutes you're already asking a lot of an audience, but there's no need to twist the knife by lingering on say, Moore pouring out some dog food for a hungry pup in someone's otherwise abandoned home. Some tightening could have gotten this down to 1:40 or so, without any real loss of information. Interestingly, the directors, Måns Mårlind and Björn Stein, went on to direct the 4th Underworld movie, which was pretty much cut to the bone (it was nearly a half hour shorter than the first film) - can whoever edited that one take a crack at this? What's another delay, anyway?
Oh well. It doesn't always work, but I can't help but love the nutty idea, and the cast keeps it afloat by being so damn likable (and bonus for Rhys Meyers getting show off some of his chops by playing multiple characters). And it's a case of my complete ignorance kind of helping - I didn't know anything about it, so I was as surprised as Moore was when she learned what she was really up against. Hopefully you can go in pretty blind (and with expectations in check) and find something to more or less enjoy as well.
What say you?