Shelter is horribly disappointing. It starts excellently but quickly descends into cliché, stupidity and messy plotting. Featuring some decent performances and ideas, it is a shame the script is so utterly laughable and the direction so style-less. Good idea, dismally executed.
Cara Harding (Julianne Moore) is a psychiatrist who specializes in schizophrenia and multi-personality disorder. Constantly challenged by her Doctor father (Jeffrey DeMunn), she is asked to look at one of his patients. Believing this to be an easy test, she meets David (Jonathan Rhys Meyers) and quickly diagnoses him as having two personalities – a real one and one he “hides in”. However, her father isn’t telling her everything and it turns out David has more than just one extra personality in him… and they might not actually be personalities at all… but souls.
Sadly with Shelter we receive the usual barrel of filmic clichés; our protagonist has an upsettingly troubled past, she’s incredibly sceptical, the police the vastly inept and anyone who lives in the woods is a scary inbred freak. Some parts literally make no sense; a blurry image caught on a CCTV camera turns out to be a sound-wave, which can easily be converted on a computer so everyone can hear it! It’s moments like this – and there are a few – that force long sighs and pitying shakes of the head. The tragedy is that is starts off so well…
Initially Cara’s assessment of David is fair and professional, but as she delves deeper into his other personality’s fictitious memories she starts to find evidence the “second personality” is of someone who actually existed… and was brutally murdered. Hooked into curing David, Cara sets off a deadly chain of events that lead her deep into the backwoods of America and to a place where she is forced to question her scepticism, her faith and the very nature of the human soul. This may make Shelter sound thrilling; it is not.
The normally superb Julianne Moore stumbles through the clunky script, attempting to add a sense of gravitas to something that is little more than a predictable X-Files episode stretched to snapping point. On the flipside, despite normally being embarrassingly wooden, Jonathan Rhys Meyers is the highlight of Shelter, where his role forces him to adopt various different personalities. He’s very convincing and brilliant throughout, and it’s a genuine shame he hasn’t shown this kind of talent in better productions.
There are decent performances throughout Shelter, with a very likeable uncle / niece relationship between Nathan Corddry and Brooklyn Proulx and a predictably-solid performance from the always likeable Jeffery DeMunn. It is such a pity the convoluted story slams them hammily about during the finale, decimating any previous good character work during the final twenty minutes of messy ridiculous.
Despite creating a great script for Identity, multiple-personality obsessed writer Michael Cooney also penned the crap-tastic Jack Frost horror films and the confused Ryan Phillippe-starrer The I Inside. Shelter falls way below any of his previous work and comes across as pretentious, trite, lazy, predictable and unlikeable. Cooney can write characters, but oddly only supporting roles (which is probably why Identity worked so well).
Shelter’s failure to thrill or scare is undoubtedly worrying news for fans of the Underworld series, as directors Björn Stein and Måns Mårlind are heading up Underworld 4: New Dawn (arriving 2012). Although sole blame cannot be placed on Mårlind & Stein’s shoulders, their direction here was dull and predictable and you pray they’re more innovative when dealing with vampires, werewolves and vampire-werewolf hybrid things.
Shelter is shockingly unfortunate. It has a genuinely decent premise, some great supporting roles and a compelling start, but it completely falls apart after the first thirty minutes, becoming clichéd, predictable and laughably silly in places. Shelter fails on a number of levels and worst of it, it bores. Watch it for Rhys Meyers stunning performance, but otherwise this is one to seriously avoid.