Letter From The Editor - Issue 69 - June 2019

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At The Picture Show
April 2013

6 Souls

My souls to take . . .

Long-buried '6 Souls' is a middling exercise in spiritual horror

6 Souls
Director: Måns Mårlind and Björn Stein
Screenplay: Michael Cooney
Starring: Julianne Moore, Jonathan Rhys Meyers, Brooklyn Proulx, Jeffrey DeMunn, Nathan Corddry and Frances Conroy
Rated R / 1 hour, 52 minutes
Now playing in limited release and VOD
(out of four)

6 Souls is like a two-hour episode of The X-Files, complete with the conflict between belief and reason - in fact, complete with a redhead investigator as the exemplar of that struggle - but directed with the banality of a mediocre TV movie and lacking any of the little extras like character and atmosphere. In fact, let's rewind a bit and just say it's like a season 9 episode of The X-Files. That just about says it.

I can only assume the distributor, RADiUS-TWC (a small arm of The Weinstein Company) knew it had a bit of a dud on its hands, which would explain why it's been on the shelf for so long. Set in 2007, shot in 2008 and originally slated for release in 2009, 6 Souls went through a title change (switching from the far superior moniker Shelter) and was finally granted a limited theatrical release this spring that was probably just the fulfillment of a contractual obligation.

Then again, the film isn't so inept that it dramatically sets itself apart from any number of bad thrillers that have gotten much more substantial releases in recent years. Why this one in particular was considered so toxic that it deserved no marketing or promotion is beyond me. In any case, no one is going to be erupting in protest over its lack of attention. Not miserable nor unwatchable nor, it must be said, even remotely good, 6 Souls is a mediocre supernatural horror movie that blends in with a lot of other mediocre supernatural horror movies. (I mean, if you're gonna bury a Julianne Moore supernatural horror flick, couldn't it have been The Forgotten?)

But I digress. Moore stars as Cara Harding, a psychiatrist who we first see determining the mental acuity of a man on death row, coming to the conclusion that his claim of multiple personalities - or dissociative identity disorder - is a sham, and that the condition itself is primarily a product of Hollywood movies, not actual psychology.

Her father (Jeffrey DeMunn), also a psychiatrist, feels differently, and gets a great deal of amusement out of challenging his daughter's convictions. He seems to specialize in unusual patients - those with conditions no one can especially explain, those with wild stories of the kind disregarded by the sciences. To Cara's credit, she can usually debunk her dad's challenges pretty easily - much to Dr. Harding's disappointment. (It must be said, DeMunn does a great "crestfallen" face.)

But her father's latest project isn't quite so easy for Cara. He brings her in to meet David (Jonathan Rhys Meyers), a wheelchair-bound young man with bright eyes and humble Southern charm. Cara interviews him, goes through the typical tests and comes away with altogether unremarkable results. Then Dr. Harding asks to speak to "Adam," and after what looks like a violent spasm, a new personality presents itself.

While at first glance it seems like just another case of disassociation, David/Adam's case proves a bit trickier. Starting with the fact that Adam, the second personality, stands up out of the wheelchair without a second thought. In fact, the two identities seem to have, if X-rays are to be believed, different skeletal structures altogether.

Alas, what ensues is a lot less enticing than how it might appear on paper. And I'm not even sure it sounds all that interesting on paper. I'll give directors Måns Mårlind and Björn Stein and screenwriter Michael Cooney credit for having a full-fledged idea of where they wanted to take their concept. It's a thought-out film, in terms of both what its physical/spiritual conflict is, as well as how its mythology (for lack of a better word) and characters fit into the bigger picture.

There's a bit less curiosity with the characters themselves, as Cara in particular is more of a collection of cliches than an actual person. She seems to have a drinking problem, but the film never goes into any detail; she suffered a crisis of faith in large part because of her husband's death, yet that struggle is paid little more than lip service. Only because an actress of Moore's caliber is playing the role does it come across as plausible as it does. Ultimately, 6 Souls is undone not by an absence of thought or talent, but by a general lack of ingenuity.

Read more by Chris Bellamy

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