[15 July 2013]
6 Souls has been savaged by just about every member of the critical community and in truth it’s no surprise. The movie’s just not that good. Not good enough to have squandered a pretty great cast, which includes Jonathan Rhys Meyers and Julianne Moore, and not good enough that you want to give writer Michael Cooney credit for at least delivering an interesting script. We’ll get to that, but first a word about what’s going on in this 2010 flick.
Wait! 2010? Yup. It was initially released under that title outside North America three years ago under the title Shelter and only saw theatrical release here about 50 seconds before arriving Blu-ray/DVD shelves near you. Directed by Swedish pals Måns Mårlind and Björn Stein this slab of celluloid has a somewhat interesting if often muddled plot/premise. Dr. Cara Harding (Moore) has recently lost her husband and maybe her religious faith. Her father (played by the always fine Jeffrey DeMunn of Walking Dead fame) suggests that what she needs is a little something to shake up her mind and so exposes her to some radical psychiatric mumbo jumbo and some pseudo-philosophical ramblings that would sound ponderous even to a freshman pausing between bong rips. It’s not just that his ramblings are condescending and cruel, but that his questions and methods are hackneyed as all get out.
So, what’s he exposing her to? Well, see, the good doctor has a patient named Adam (Meyers) who appears to have multiple personality disorder. (Oh! At the start of the picture Moore’s character is testifying in a case where she suggests something—and this is a little confusing ‘cause it doesn’t really come back later in the plot, though it probably should as it seems to be directly related to what happens later—along the lines of “multiple personality disorder doesn’t exist”. Or, again, something like that. Doesn’t matter you’ll be baffled by plenty of other things so there’s no need to get caught up on that.)
Anyway, Adam doesn’t just have multiple personality disorder and a problem with his neck, he takes on the physical characteristics of the personalities who are inhabiting him. So, like, if a man bound to a wheelchair occupies him, he can’t movie his legs; if he’s occupied by, say, a friend of Cara’s, he knows her secret nickname. Wait. What? OK, that’s not a perfect description but neither are all the transformations. Meyers handles the difficult task of playing these different souls remarkably well and both he and Moore really give their best in a film that (again) doesn’t deserve either one of them. (Did either of them read the script? Was this a favor?)
Then (and this may be the understatement of the hour) things get weird! Somehow, there’s some mumbo jumbo about witches or magic practitioners running around the woods not too far from wherever this is all supposed to be taking place. (Somewhere in the southern-ish region of the US. Hey! Does it matter to those supernatural spirits? Actually, there is a pretty specific location mentioned but who cares! Details, schmeetails!) That leads Cara on a trek into the woods among these witchy mothers who are either practicing black or white magic; they’re menacing as all get out and there’s a creepy little kid involved, one of the sure signs that evil must be just around the bend.
Then? There’s some guy named Monty who has a whole bunch of documentation about some creepy crawly stuff that happened during the 1918 influenza epidemic. Why does that matter? Well, some weird stuff went down during that time (much of it preserved on film no less!); see, a local faith healer suggested that the Lord could cure everyone but then, as per usual, we find out that his family died, that he had actually lost his faith in God, that he was a phony, and that he had to be killed by some of the witchy wood folk!
It kinda makes sense in the logic of the film but it stretches the story to the point of breaking. You might be forgiven for thinking that writer Cooney had slammed together two or even three different movie ideas here, either out of frustration or inexperience. Doesn’t matter. Anyway, in the middle of this, Cara’s father and even her daughter and, yes, her artistic (yes, artistic) brother are placed in jeopardy. And, in the end, she has to make a choice that’s maybe not even really a choice.
How about that! She’s really in jeopardy in those confusing last moments when the script tries desperately to pull together all its disparate strands and you’re actually praying for something/anything to end this turkey. It might have been appropriate, say, to have a meteor crash into the woods where Cara finds herself, for it would be about as believable as anything that actually happens. And there’s a set up for a sequel in which none of these actors will appear! If it ever gets made!
Cooney seems to be recycling half of the idea that informed his script for the 2003 flick Identity. Like that picture, 6 Souls has touches of the interesting but you can’t help but feel like the story he really wants to tell has happened before the present action of the story at hand, and you never really get around to getting the full scope of that and, thus, never really get around to seeing a really interesting picture, either.
Now, all this said, 6 Souls probably isn’t as bad as most would have you believe. When you consider Cooney’s track record, with films such as Jack Frost 2: Revenge of the Mutant Killer Snowman, Murder In Mind, and the aforementioned Identity this really is no surprise and as such you have to appreciate 6 Souls for what it is: A bad movie that helps while away two hours of your life that could spent on something more meaningful. But, with so much meaning out there already, you can afford to waste a little time, can’t ya?
There are no bonus features found on this Blu-ray.
Published at: http://www.popmatters.com/pm/review/173380-6-souls/