Directed by Måns Mårlind and Björn Stein
Distributed by Anchor Bay
”I’d like to consider myself a doctor of science, but a woman of God.“
So says Cara Harding, a psychiatrist tasked with debunking the diagnosis of multiple personality disorder given to a young man named Adam in the long shelved, newly released film 6 Souls. That line, and indeed the first two acts of the film, seem to hint that the film will ultimately concern a battle between science and faith for our heroine, possibly adding a bit of thematic weight to what might otherwise be a humdrum supernatural thriller. But alas, it’s not meant to be.
6 Souls, while competently made and quite well acted, never rises to its promise of wrestling with any larger issues beyond its potboiler plot. The film, which once bore the far better moniker Shelter, opens with Cara, played by the always wonderful Julianne Moore, being beckoned to her father’s side to give her professional opinion on Adam’s condition. Her dad, played by Frank Darabont regular Jeffrey DeMunn, insists upon challenging his colleague/child, who believes that MPD is a mere psychological fad. Upon meeting Adam (Rhys Meyers), she discovers he has an alternate personality named David, based upon an actual person who had died some two decades previous. In an attempt to cure her new patient of his illness, Cara delves into investigating the real David’s death, discovering grisly details involving mountain witchcraft, torture, and ultimately murder. Throughout the course of her treatment, Cara finds that Adam has even more alternate personalities, each based upon a person who had died in some terrible circumstance. In doing so, Cara’s faith in science wanes even as she clings more and more to her faith in God, as she eventually discovers the true nature of Adam’s affliction – but not before putting herself and her loved ones in harm’s way.
It’s an intriguing premise, penned by Identity scribe Michael Cooney, and the strength of the film’s basic setup carries it quite a ways before it all begins to sink. The biggest problem comes with the final act, when the film’s true villain is revealed. While the idea itself is interesting enough, there is no explanation for the character’s actions throughout the previous two hours. Look, this writer doesn’t need every little thing spelled out in a film’s climax, and I appreciate ambiguity from time to time, but the film’s refusal to discuss the villain’s purpose not only weakens the movie’s ending, it undercuts everything that’s come before. “Why did he…?” “What was the point of…?” “Just what exactly was he…?”, are all basic questions one will have as the credits roll, none of which have any satisfactory answers. For all the film does well, including its truly chilling final moment, it’s ultimately all for naught due to the film’s dodgy logic and its utter lack of explanation regarding its antagonist’s plan.
Still, the film isn’t without merit. The performances are great, for one thing. Moore is fantastic as Cara, crafting a character wounded by recent tragedy and driven by her need to disprove the existence of multiple personality disorder. Whether she’s a loving mother, icy skeptic, exasperated daughter, or driven investigator – she’s really, really great here, and makes one wish she’d had a better genre film to participate in.
Also great is Johnathan Rhys Meyers, who juggles the various personalities which inhabit his character with ease. One imagines this role would be an actor’s dream (or nightmare), allowing them the opportunity to try out their range with numerous accents and character traits, and Rhys Meyers seems to have a blast with doing just that. And, when the script calls for it, he can prove quite scary at times. Again, another good performance ultimately wasted by the film’s failure.
Directors Måns Mårlind and Björn Stein keep the film looking dark and gorgeous throughout, much as they did with their critically maligned Underworld entry Awakening, and manage to craft some intensity and decent scares throughout. In addition, the sound design and John Frizzell’s musical score add immeasurably to the film’s creepy, unsettling atmosphere. It should be noted that both the film’s beautiful photography and impressive audio are well represented by Anchor Bay’s otherwise barebones Blu-ray.
Ultimately, though the film is technically accomplished and wonderfully acted, the film’s screenplay ultimately sinks the entire endeavor. 6 Souls isn’t a terrible movie, nor is it a very good one. Should you find yourself with nothing else to watch, you might check it out for what it manages to get right. Otherwise, don’t go too far out of your way to give this one a look.
2 out of 5
0 out of 5