Review: Shelter

Directed by: Måns Mårlind, Björn Stein
Written by: Michael Cooney
Starring: Julianne Moore, Jonathan Rhys Meyers
Released: 2010 / Genre: Horror / Country: USA / IMDB
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Sometimes you do the safe picture, sometimes you do the pay cheque picture, or that’s at least the logic Ben Affleck and Matt Damon live by in Kevin Smith’s Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back. I’m not sure if Måns Mårlind and Björn Stein’s film Shelter was Julianne Moore’s mortgage payer or a creative endeavour she had to partake in. Since the film is both low budget and low on quality, her thinking appears as muddled as the plot.

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Moore plays psychiatrist Cara who specialises in multiple personality disorder. Her father, an experienced psychiatrist himself, introduces her to a new patient – Jonathan Rhys Meyers’ Adam. Adam appears to display two personalities at first, switching between them via a violent, neck-breaking convulsion. But as time goes on, the personalities increase in number. As Cara delves deeper into Adam’s multiples she soon realises that his personalities resemble those of murder victims.

Screenwriter Michael Cooney wrote the fun but generic Identity which displayed a penchant for cheap shocks located in storm-riddled remote locations. In Shelter, we get the same sort of rain clouds and middle-of-nowhere running around without any sense of tension. There are a few well-timed jump-out-of-your-seat moments but they are bit-parts in a whole that is both hollow and incomprehensible. Moore is a fine actress and she adds gravitas and emotion to an under-written role but a plight that is driven by a loss of faith after her husband is murdered is undernourished. And, like much of the ideas banded around in Shelter (like the fact Adam’s convulsions cause his body characteristics to change into what doctor’s say is a totally different person) they are brushed under the carpet as the film hurtles towards its unsatisfying, uninteresting climax.

Shelter does benefit from some stylish tonal flourishes. The photography is grey and monotone which adds to an atmosphere of foreboding, while some of the location shooting is suitably haunting, especially the sequences in the forest. Indeed, Joyce Feurring as the Witch is great in a small role, her haggard face and sadistic sincerity making her a terrifically frightening proposition. Rhys Meyer’s has to be given credit for managing to convey plenty of emotion through various guises but I’m still not sold on his acting ability.

But at the end you have more questions than you began with. Shelter might maintain a sense of dread throughout thanks to some good performances and great production design but it feels artificially orchestrated to hide deficiencies in both plot and character.

Review by Daniel StephensSee all reviews

About the Author
Editor of Top 10 Films, Dan Stephens is usually found pondering his next list. An unhealthy love of 1980s Hollywood sees most of his top 10s involving a time-travelling DeLorean and an adventurous archaeologist going by the name Indiana.

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  1. Rodney Reply

    Julianne Moore is an awesomely talented actress who, for some inexplicable reason, chooses to appear in some truly godawful films. It seems for every hit (Big Lebowski, Boogie Nights, Jurassic Park 2) she gets into, there’s a string of mediocrity following her around. This looks like another of the latter.

    Ahhh, I think I’ll skip it.

  2. Andy Reply

    I saw 111 new movies last year, this one came bottom of the pile below The Wolfman, Devil and Repo Men.

  3. Jaccstev Reply

    I wished I could be more positive about the movie. But sadly the whole movie felt like a complete waste of time. The slow pace and the loud sound effects just ruined its creepy ambiance.

  4. Richard Reply

    Great review, Dan. It’s funny, but I tend to look on Julianne Moore’s presence in a movie as a mark of quality, but she has made a few turkeys in her time.

    Thanks for the heads up. Think I’ll be giving this one a miss. 😉

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