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.
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 Stephens – See all reviews