If you made it to the limited theatrical release of 6 Souls in April and came down with unshakable déjà vu, don’t worry. Unlike Jonathan Rhys Meyers’s three-ring circus of character acting, you’re not crazy. The film was released overseas in 2010-11 under its original (i.e., better) title, Shelter and arrived in North American cinemas after making rounds on the Internet. Perhaps with good reason.
Allow me to set the scene. We join Cara Harding (Julianne Moore), a forensic psychiatrist, in the wake of her husband’s murder. Her father, Dr. Harding (played by Jeffrey DeMunn of Walking Dead fame), who is also a psychiatrist, introduces her to a patient (Rhys Meyers) with a bizarre case of multiple personality disorder. (It should be noted that Cara does not believe in multiple personality disorder and has testified in court against criminals claiming to be sufferers, often resulting in their death.) Meanwhile, her young daughter, Samantha, has stopped believing in God, and a family friend, Charlie, who is a doctor, has developed a nasty cough and a pus-oozing rash on his neck to boot. Oh, and there is also an ancient curse involving immortal slavery after wrongdoing. ALL OF THESE THINGS ARE IMPORTANT.
I was excited about 6 Souls. The cast is great, and I’ve always been partial to movies (horror or not) about people with psychological disorders. It’s been a while since Don’t Say a Word and Silence of the Lambs, and I had high hopes that Shelter…er, 6 Souls would join the ranks.
However. It looks like we’ll have to wait a little longer.
The problem with 6 Souls is that there’s too much at play. I found that I was constantly adding a fresh layer to my understanding of the story. Okay, we’re in a courtroom testifying against a rapist. Okay, now we’re in a hospital talking to a mental patient. Okay, now the doctor has an itchy neck. Okay, she seems to be bringing religion up a lot. Okay, now we’re in the mountains with a creepy witch doctor. Okay, now Jonathan Rhys Meyers is chasing us. WHAT’S GOING ON???
In fact, the two pieces of information that seem most important at the onset hardly play any role in the plot: the murder of Cara’s husband (a plot device to facilitate Samantha’s loss of faith) and the death of the rapist whom Cara discredits in court (possibly added as evidence of Cara’s steadfastness to her beliefs). It seems a misstep not to have woven these into the story later.
And there is the matter of Jonathan Rhys Meyers to address. I like JRM and believe that he can be scary – he terrified me in Woody Allen’s Match Point – but his performance in 6 Souls reeks of an American Accents 101 class. Also, I’m not so sure that he’s really the bad guy in the story. It seems to me that we should be a lot more afraid of the witch doctor than JRM and his trick-or-treat bag of American vernacular.
With all of this said, there are moments of greatness in 6 Souls. Much of the dialogue is fantastic, especially that of the Hardings; they are instantly likable and believable as a family. And, when all is said and done, it’s at the very least an original idea, even if it’s a convoluted amalgamation of Don’t Say a Word, Silence of the Lambs, Bless the Child, Cabin Fever and The Skeleton Key.