Dr. Cara Jessup (Julianne Moore) has made a career from debunking the notion of multiple personality disorders and has testified in court to that effect, resulting in many murderers being executed for crimes their supposed alter-egos perpetrated.
That is until her father introduces her to his new patient Adam (Jonathan Rhys Meyers, using a full repertoire of clichéd American accents) who will test her rational mind to the limit as he appears to embody the persona’s of people who have died mysteriously.
Shelter starts off promisingly enough.
After a court case and subsequent guilt-fuelled drinking binge – a problem that is hinted at but never explored – we follow Cara as she begins her standard questioning and testing regime with her new patient (who is initially a wheelchair bound man named David).
When Cara’s father, Dr. Harding (a warm turn by Jeffrey DeMunn) tricks his mind, by phoning the interview room and requesting another personality by name, David becomes Adam and Cara runs her tests again.
Here an interestingly peculiar anomaly arises in that one of his personalities is colour blind. Cara continually looks for the rational while her father challenges her to suspend belief and look beyond.
As Cara turns detective and delves deeper into Adam’s past she begins to realise all may not be as it seems.
The closer to the truth she gets the more danger seems to close in.
We’re made aware that Cara is devoted to God by her crucifix which is always on show, yet she is a ‘woman of science’ – surprisingly there is no strong narrative thread of battling ideologies.
Her daughter Sammie is a strong non-believer due to her father’s murder during a street mugging, and doesn’t believe any kind of God would allow this to happen. The religious undertones link into Adam’s history and the people he appears to be impersonating, each having died and been found with a cross etched in their back, and having previously lost their faith in God.
Faith, or lack of, is prominent throughout the film and one wonders if the creative forces behind the film are trying to hammer home a positive message about Religion.
The script plods through the second act at a very slow rate and unfortunately the film soon begins to meander its way into being a poor imitation of a drawn out X-Files episode.
Julianne Moore skulks around dark abandoned houses and questions the relatives of the dead people Adam is imitating, looking for clues that prove her theories and reveal her patient’s true identity.
Playful images, if a little clichéd, add to the supernatural element of the film with strange symbols cropping up in a desolate mountain village complete with obligatory strange mountain folk and dark figures lurking in the shadows.
There are interesting themes of witchcraft and exorcism in Adam’s motive which are force fed through a crude plot device but the audience are left to put the pieces together far too often, and with very little help from a script that lacks the intelligence to tie all the elements together.
The biggest mystery however is why Julianne Moore, an actress of true quality and numerous Oscar nods, signed onto the film in the first place.
She is far superior to the roles she has taken of late and her involvement in Shelter is no exception to this trend.
It is an average supernatural thriller that feels more like a forgettable television episode than frightening feature film.
Shelter is in cinemas now.