Wednesday, April 03, 2013

6 Souls: O Ye of Little Faith

There is nothing like eternity to teach atheist materialists a thing or two.  A malevolent supernatural entity is out to demonstrate the soul’s existence to those who unfortunately lack faith in Måns Mårlind & Björn Stein’s 6 Souls (trailer here), which opens this Friday in New York.

Dr. Cara Jessup has no patience with bogus multiple-personality diagnoses.  She is perfectly willing to testify against such claptrap as an expert witness for criminal prosecutors.  It takes a lot out of her though, because she is a practicing Christian.  Her faith was recently tested by the random murder of her husband, yet it remains strong.  The same is not necessarily true for her father, Dr. Harding, and her young daughter.

Also a psychiatrist, the old man is more apt to buy into trendy theories.  As a challenge to his orthodox daughter, he presents her a particularly volatile but convincing split personality case.  Excepting the challenge, Jessup discovers the man’s presumably adopted personas correspond to tragic deaths not far from his hill country roots.  In each case, the deceased’s faith had been undermined by misfortune before their actual deaths.  It all might involve a snake-handling Hillbilly sect and its spiritual leader, the “Granny.”  Of course, while Dr. Jessup follows her clues all the soul-sick people in her life start dying like flies.

If Julianne Moore had created such a sympathetic portrait of a woman of faith when playing Sarah Palin, Game Change would have been the toast of CPAC.  Frankly, 6 Souls is more than a bit muddled in its presentation of religious belief, but Moore clearly conveys her Christianity as a source of strength for Jessup.  It is smart, earnest work.  And then there’s everyone else.

To be fair, veteran character actor Jeffrey DeMunn (the Stephen King prison movie specialist, appearing in Green Mile and Shawshank) is quite engaging as Dr. Harding.  Alas, Jonathan Rhys Meyers is far from a suitably sinister presence as Harding’s patient[s].  Indeed, there is no getting around it—he is just plain dull.

6 Souls opens with a grabby sequence that nicely establishes both Dr. Jessup’s character and an atmosphere of foreboding.  Unfortunately, it is not really connected to the rest of the narrative.  Mårlind & Stein try to maintain the moody vibe, but they keep the proceedings so murky it seems like they might have shot with layer of caked-on mud covering their lens.  There is a worthy lead performance and the kernel of a promising idea in 6 Souls, but the execution is too dark (in a literal sense) and erratic.  Best reserved for genre die-hards who like their supernatural horror with some Appalachian seasoning, 6 Souls opens this Friday (4/5) in New York at the Village East.