Modern-day horror fans are akin to the female audience of Hollywood’s Golden Age. As Molly Haskell pointed out in “From Reverence to Rape,” the women who went to the movies to see one of their own enjoy a wildly successful career on the screen had to find a way to come to terms with a third act that usually found her sacrificing her job for hearth and home. For many women, simply ignoring that final third was enough. The same holds true for fans of thrillers and horror films. Too often, what starts off strong falters into a morass of unnecessary backstory and exposition—and “6 Souls” is no different.
Things seem promising at the beginning—particularly with Julianne Moore and Jonathan Rhys Meyers in the lead roles of psychiatrist Cara Harding and a patient named Adam, who seems to have multiple personalities. But how can he know so many secrets of a long-dead young man who lived in hills filled with God and mountain magic? And why do so many people break out in lesions after he’s touched them? And does it matter that Cara still believes in God but her little girl doesn’t?
For most of “6 Souls,” directors Måns Mårlind and Björn Stein maintain a sense of creeping dread. Moore does fine work, making Cara a direct descendant of Virginia Madsen’s intrepid PhD student in “Candyman,” a woman who doesn’t believe in the supernatural until she’s almost undone by it. And Rhys Meyers looks great out of those Tudors costumes, adopting and discarding various accents and body language with the precision of a prize-winning drama student.
But when silent home movies from the late 1910s provide a major plot point and we move into the mountain “holler” to discover the truth about Adam and mountain magic, things take a turn for the ludicrous and the cheesy. Until then “6 Souls” was a rarity: a horror film with something more than just cheap scares on its mind. By the final shock, though, “6 Souls” has become just another slice of schlock.
Critic’s Score: B-
Directed by Måns Mårlind and Björn Stein
Cast by Diane Heery, Jason Loftus
Starring Julianne Moore, Jonathan Rhys Meyers, Frances Conroy