Multiple personalities and Shelter

Shelter (2009 film)

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[contains mild spoilers]

It’s nearly 4am and I can honestly say I haven’t been this spooked by a film in a long time. I just watched Shelter (2010), directed by Måns Mårlind and Björn Stein. And written by Michael Cooney.

Julianne Moore, whom I adore, plays a forensic psychiatrist whose patient (Jonathan Rhys Meyers) has multiple personality disorder…or so she thinks.

The fact that each of his multiple ‘personalities’ are that of actual murder victims, causes her to question herself. An inward battle between science and religion reigns as she tears through experimentation and research, finding nothing that makes sense to her.

What starts out as a psychological thriller becomes supernatural horror, which was quite interesting as it works as both. Some people complained about the ‘switch’, but in actuality there was no transition needed; it was always evident that this was more than just a man with multiple identities. Maybe some people are just a little slow in the brain tank. The filmmakers even showed the supernatural darkness very early on in the plot, leaving no doubt in anyone’s mind other than Julianne Moore herself.

I was impressed with Jonathan Rhys Meyers’s handling of the multiple roles, especially when he had to behave as a little girl crying after her wounded mother. He had the hardest task of balancing the many characters that made his part.

The film had a subtle style which never intruded on the plot; every voice over or scene transition was smooth, and the music haunting in all the places it needed to be. I did wonder why only the spine was fully changed when each of Meyers’s identities switched, whereas everything else was left the same, but I guess that doesn’t need to be explained. The convenient thing about supernatural genres is that they minimise the need to explain what is synonymously unexplainable, or without reason.

8/10 is a very fair rating I think. But I wonder if maybe I was only so jumpy during because I am sleep deprived, and alone in a cold dark house.

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My toaster scares me more than this film

Reading some of the positive reviews that Dark House has received makes me wonder if there is something wrong with me, but then I remember: no, there is something wrong with this film.

I have always been a horror buff, so I forgive the inevitable cliché moments that are trademark to the genre. But I just found this film to be absolutely hollow. I was hoping for a fun spooky journey, but instead was served: shockingly bad acting (on some of their parts, not all), and a completely predictable, bland storyline. It felt like the equivalent of the not-funny uncle at a family reunion trying desperately to make everyone laugh; only in this case the aim was to scare.

By nature I am quite jumpy, even the sound of the toast popping out of the toaster can make me jump out of my skin. But I can honestly say I did not even flinch, and was bored to the point of comatose. I like it when horror movies look mildly makeshift or amateur, or have a grungy misguided feel, as it can make them more genuine and edgy; but this just looked like something pieced together by a bunch of pretentious film students assigned a last-minute project. Without adding any spoilers, all I can say is that the transitions, layering of footage, and the embarrassing fonts flashing up for the hologram error were like something a first-time filmmaker would put together in paint shop or movie-maker.

It’s just a shame that with the advancements that have been made in the film industry, the visuals or atmosphere could not even compensate for the lack of storyline. I’ve seen films on much lower budgets, and made back in the day where there were no technical advantages, irrefutably better than this waste of time. I couldn’t even laugh at it.

Unlike Darin Scott, film makers such as Ji-woon Kim could have taken this tale and made it terrifying.