For film buffs there are film things that raise a red flag; if the movie is not distributed for pre theatrical release screening, there is no press tour or when it comes time for home entertainment the distributor see the best course of action is to distance it from the original by changing the title. I can’t directly comment on the veracity of the most of these traditional methods indicating a bad movie but in the case of ‘6 Souls’ you will find it listed as ‘Shelter’. The movie does have an interesting pedigree concerning the writer and director with several members of the cast with demonstrably proven talents above what is normal found in a ‘B’ flick like this one. This is not it imply that this movie completely falls short but it is on a considerable step down from the standards their reputations can usually command.
There are several elements of this movie that are interesting with admittedly sufficient potential for a fascinating story. In the following synopsis you will note several plot devices, tropes and an archetypes often found in our favorite crime thrillers. Represented here are such potent story line motivators as multiple personality disorder and the ever popular apex human predators, serial killers. Both of this character types have been employed in countless thrillers but I do have to admit that few filmmakers representing this ilk have combined the types in quite the fashion employed here. Like a chef taking commonly used ingredient found in the kitchen and trying out new recipes to recombine those ‘6 Souls’ is very much a cinematic experiment. Although it failed to fully achieve the full measure the filmmaker set out to accomplish it felt as if an honest attempt was made to deliver a different slant on the psychological thriller.
Dr. Cara (Julianne Moore) is a psychiatrist and widowed single mother of a daughter, Sam (Brooklynn Proulx) who is currently staying with Cara’s brother, Stephen (Nathan Corddry) while she attended to a few matters that demanded her attention. The profession runs in her family, her father, Dr. Harding (Jeffrey DeMunn), also a practicing psychiatrist calls his daughter wanting to discuss a certain patient who is presenting fascinating symptoms making for an extremely unusual case that he would appreciate her opinion on. The young man in question, played by Jonathan Rhys Meyers, is introduced as David Bernburg. He is a paraplegic and there for Cara for Cara to subject to several standardized tests including the battery for traditional psychiatric parameters as well as one for color blindness. The results were quite normal. When Cara presses her father as to his urgency on her reviewing what seems to be a normal person he calls the patient asking to speak to Adam. David has a severe convulsive reaction and answers a new personality, Adam. Is given the same battery of test which she no neurological deficit but indicates he is color blind. All indications point to David and Adam are two distinctly different personalities. Piquing interest further Adam talks about Cara’s late husband who it turns out was murdered. After meeting with a longtime family friend, again also a psychiatrist, Dr. Charles Foster (John Peakes) it is disclosed that the patient has wounds located on the back of his neck. Cara agrees to work on the case and one of her initial suspicions is that Adam is the primary personality and David is his concoction.
This moves us into the active investigation portion of the film’s story. Cara moves out of the role of physician and mental health professional suddenly altering herself into a Veronica Mars girl detective. She begins tracking down the David persona in an attempt to determine how Adam came to subsume it. This is where the waters become murky and the central narrative begins to become diluted, finding a yearbook Cara sees the name David Bernburg but above it is a picture of another man, tracking down his address Cara finds that David’s mother who tells Dr. Cara her David was in a wheelchair since six years of age subsequent to an accident. Later on David was found murdered, his body obviously tortured. Adam was only a child when David was killed, events that occurred twenty five years ago. David’s mother tells Cara that her son turned his back on God. Cara believes that confronting Adam with the facts surrounding the real life and death of David will expedite his recovery. She was very wrong with that proposed course of therapy.
At this point the story is already overly complicated but salvageable a psychological thriller. The plot threads not only unravel but become hopeless tangle once the supernatural elements are injected into the mix to serve as the underlying etiology of the patient’s conflicted psyche. The help of an old woman with the ability to help in cases like this known as the Granny Holler Witch (Joyce Feurring) is introduced in a scene where she cures a man by removing the ‘victim’s soul and temporarily storing in in a safe ‘shelter’ replacing it after the cleansing. This shelter is a human receptacle for the trouble soul. This opens up a similar procedure done by an old woman holding tenure as the witch in 1918 (Diane Jonardi) and the massive death rate caused by the influenza pandemic of that time. This in turn brings in an older gentleman who can provide the supernatural exposition necessary to propel the action forward, as it were. There was an Adam involved then and a faith healer who has lost his belief. By this point we have a case of musical chairs with souls jumping from one shelter body to the next.
It just came off as overly complicated by not just inducing the supernatural elements the plot takes a turn that it is unable to recover from. It is as if the screenwriter Michael Coone were trying too hard to infuse the tale with an unexpected twist at every turn. What happened was the story sinks into a quagmire of muddled conflict between the practitioners of the spirit realm and those of modern psychiatry. The mind bending effect of a person assuming the identities of murder victims could have been achieved all within the natural realm of reality. The migration from psychological to supernatural motivated thriller is difficult under any conditions and the directors Björn Stein and Måns Mårlind were not able to rise to this unnecessarily complicated storylines by consolidating their styles into cohesive presentation.