Made three years ago but only now seeing the light of day - though there’s nary a shaft of light in it – 6 Souls is from the Swedish directing team Måns Mårlind and Björn Stein. At times preposterous and blatantly derivative of films like Paranormal Activity and The Exorcist, it’s an effectively creepy psychological thriller that knows how to twist its plot threads around viewers’ necks, and it draws you in in spite of itself.
Julianne Moore sets the tone with her opening line: “Ever have emotions you can’t explain?” Moore plays a psychiatrist specializing in institutionalized patients and criminals who exhibit the kind of behavior that plays on the film’s title – they’re sick souls. Her current caseload is dominated by Jonathan Rhys Meyers, whose name shifts between David and Adam and a couple others, depending on which personality has overtaken his psyche. When she meets him, he’s meek, physically disabled, and has a Southern accent. Set off by a ringing telephone, he becomes something much more demonic than his vocal switch to Brooklynese.
True to dumber movies of this genre, Moore’s character becomes obsessed with her patient at the expense of her daughter, who she leaves at all hours with her much younger geeky brother (Nate Corrdry), and any outside interests. (To paraphrase a Stephen Sondheim lyric from Sunday in the Park with George, there's no life in her life.) But she’s understandably rapt by this confusing, confounding man, especially after meeting the mother (Six Feet Under’s Frances Conroy) of a murder victim named David who Meyers embodies in name and maybe more.
As the mystery man’s personalities fracture, Moore, too, seems to lose herself in the psychological muck. Her investigation into her patient’s true identity flirts at religious zealotry, leading her to more victims and a macabre cult of zealous backwoods people whose blind, wizened matriarch specializes in an icky form of anesthesia and human vivisection. You’ve heard people described none too kindly as sucking the air out of a room? This lady can literally suck the life out of you – and then blow it back into your lungs if she so chooses.
Directors Mårlind and Stein have staged a stylish guilty pleasure of a so-bad-it's-good movie that makes you both laugh out loud at its cheesy dialogue (like Moore intoning, “A doctor can’t help her now!”) and look over your shoulder lest Meyers be lurking at the back of the theater. Why the movie got shelved for this long is unclear but the marketing team at The Weinstein Company blew a chance to turn one of the old crone’s questions – “Do you believe now?” – into the ad campaign’s catchy tagline.
Six Souls | 1:52 | Dir. Mårlind and Stein | Click here for theater show times.