When he worked at restaurants, Judge Gordon Sullivan never liked takeout orders from hell.
Evil Has Many Faces
Though the term is bandied about with abandon these days, "B movies" are an historically determined thing. As Hollywood transitioned to narrative cinema, where the roughly 90-minute story became standard, the studios realized that bigger is generally better. Today's blockbuster summer tent-pole franchise flicks are an extension of this phenomena; one really expensive picture can make more than twice as much as two films half as expensive. Still, studios only had so much capital and could only make so many really expensive films at a time, which necessitated the production of B movies that would fill out double bills and make money by keeping production costs down. Though true "B" movies declined with the end of Hollywood's Golden Age and the disappearance of the double bill, we can still see some of the same forces at work even today. Now, instead of filling out double bills, these sort of B movies are designed for the voracious appetite of international markets and streaming services. A perfect example is 6 Souls. Despite a recognizable cast, decent plot, and solid production values, it languished without an American distribution deal. With 6 Souls (Blu-Ray), fans of supernatural thrillers can pick up a B movie that satisfies if approached with moderate expectations.
Dr. Cara Harding (Julianne Moore, Boogie Nights) is a forensic psychologist who is still struggling with her faith after the senseless murder of her husband. One thing that Dr. Harding knows, though, is that Multiple Personality Disorder is a myth propagated by bad movies and hysterical therapists out to make a buck. Her father (Jeffrey DeMunn, The Walking Dead, a fellow psychiatrist, isn't so sure and has long tried to convince his daughter that it's a possibility. His latest attempt at convincing his daughter involves a patient named Adam (Jonathan Rhys Myers, The Tudors), who was brought into the psychiatric hospital after being found paralyzed in the street. After prodding by the elder Harding, Adam transforms into David, who can suddenly walk. Intrigued but determined to prove fakery, Cara begins to investigate, but her inquiries lead her to murder victims and more questions than answers.
The grafting of two stories is what 6 Souls stakes its appeal on. The first is a story of forensic psychology. Cara attempts to disprove her patient's multiple personality, explaining it away as the fantasy of a disturbed young man. The second half gives us a supernatural twist on Adam/David's predicament. I don't want to say too much about it for fear of spoiling the twists and turns, but the ending is a far cry from the scientific skepticism of Cara's beginning. The tie that binds these two halves together is the question of faith. Cara wears a prominent cross and yet possesses scientifically grounded skepticism in the face of MPD. In contrast, both her father and her daughter have abandoned a god who would allow the death of Cara's husband. The ways in which the question of faith tie the two halves of this story together keep the possible "jolt" from changing genres to a minimum.
I brought up B movies earlier because 6 Souls is in that weird position of having a so-so plot (we've seen most of these elements before, really), but a truly excellent cast. Julianne Moore is her always dependable self, giving us a portrait of a woman who is grieving and ultimately not conflicted over her faith and science. The role of a person with multiple personalities is perfect for Jonathan Rhys Meyers is a juicy one. Though his Southern accent is a bit silly, he otherwise jumps into the role with both feet. The result is a performance that ranges from charming to scary and back again. The rest of the cast is equally good, but DeMunn deserves special consideration as the father figure; it's a role he's largely perfected on The Walking Dead, but here he has a bit more mad scientist to him.
The Blu-ray presentation helps the case for 6 Souls. The 2.40:1/1080p AVC-encoded image is excellent. Detail is generally strong, and color saturation is consistent. There's a slight blue tinge to the image, but that fits the Pittsburgh setting perfectly. Black levels are deep and remain consistent throughout. The DTS-HD 5 .1 audio track is similarly impressive. Dialouge is clean and clear from the front, while the surrounds are used mainly for atmosphere. Some of the "stings" during jumping moments show special clarity.
A certain percentage of the viewing audience isn't going to enjoy the fact that 6 Souls is really two stories in one. Either they'll want more forensic psychology at the end, or prefer more supernatural material sooner. The film is also, like so many films that deal with the supernatural, somewhere outside the realms of rationality. Characters do silly things, a bit too much coincidence infects the narrative, and the ending will leave many viewers groaning.
The trick with 6 Souls is to approach it as a B movie; it's got some good acting inside a decent (though not original) story, and as a variation in a genre it will satisfy many viewers. Certainly fans of the actors should check it out, as should genre aficionados.
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