Director – Mans Marlind, Bjork Stein
Cast – Julianna Moore, Jonathan Rhys Myers, Jeffrey DeMunn, Frances Conroy, Nathan Corddry, Brooklynn Proulx, Brian Anthony Wilson, Joyce Feurring, Steven Rishard, Charles Techman, John Peakes
Release Year – 2011
Reviewed by John of the Dead
Shelter is one of those horror films that I just love to watch due to the circumstances surrounding it. What do I mean by that? Well, while looking for other horror films I came across the IMDb profile for Shelter, liked what I read, and after a little searching was able to acquire this piece for my viewing pleasure. Slightly more thriller than horror at times, Shelter provides us with a unique psychological horror/thriller storyline that employed some new elements I had never before come across, and good direction from Mans Marlind and Bjork Steinaided in making this a positive experience for me.
Julianne Moore(Hannibal, Tales From The Darkside: The Movie) stars as Cara Harding, a forensic psychologist whose most recent patient (Jonathan Rhys Meyers) proves to be her most challenging yet. Cara is certain that she can cure the man, but when she learns that each of his multiple personalities are each murder victims of unknown circumstances, she finds herself way over her head in a mysterious web of the supernatural.
Fans of psychological horror/thrillers should find some good joy in Shelter. I love horror films that deal with the mind of those suffering mental problems related to multiple personalities, ala Identity, Session 9, etc., and when you give me creative elements as Shelter did my happiness goes through the roof given we do not get many more creative ideas in this horror sub-genre. Writer Michael Clooney seems to have a knack for psychological films, as he also wrote the fantastic Identity, which some may have said was a fluke given he also wrote/directed Jack Frost and Jack Frost II: Revenge of the Mutant Killer Snowman, but Shelter shows Identity was no fluke. Our lead protagonist, Cara, was not the typical psychologist whose numerous cliches turn this into the same old film we often get in this genre, but a protagonist that I found very enjoyable and one that provided many positives to the story. We watch her yearning to help the troubled man in winning back his troubled mind from the numerous personalities keeping him at bay, and her desire and love for her work gives us something far greater than the typical overworked and stressed out individual. There is a strong mystery element that plays into the patient’s personalities, with constant developments that kept Cara out of the loop just as much as we the viewers are kept out of the loop, a tactic that I loved and appreciated. The constant developments up the tension provided by the patient as his psychotic tendencies slowly take a toll on Cara;s life and family, showing her that some secrets are better left alone. Most importantly though is the usage of our antagonist (the patient), who was used to full potential and was the source of the unique qualities the film displayed. I won’t give any strong spoilers, but I will say that the usage of his multiple personalities was genius, as each of them was not only a different character but a character with a strong history behind him, and one whose mystery always came with a deadly twist. My only balk against this film is that it runs much longer than it should, which resulted in some pacing issues during the second half of the film. This 107 minute watch could have easily been cut down another 20 minutes and still come out just as good of a film as it was and not left me scratching my head over why the filmmakers chose to drag out the second half of this piece.
Directors Mans Marlind and Bjork Stein (who are directing Underworld: Awakening)did a great job selling this already interesting story to us with awesome execution of every element involved. The atmosphere was great, gloomy and gritty, and he kept the tension high thanks to great usage of the horror and positive performances from the actors involved, especially Jonathan Rhys Meyers as the psychotic patient. Julianne Moore was her usual good and proper self, but it was Myers who really moved this film, with the accompaniment of our directors’ great execution of his transformation scenes between personalities – a tactic that I found very creepy and disturbingly in the most awesome of ways. As mentioned earlier, this is not a devout horror film and includes a fair amount of thriller elements, so we are not given a whole lot of gore or insane kills, but the kill sequences provided were great and came with a well-executed supernatural element that our directing duo expertly brought to screen.
Overall, Shelter is a positive psychological horror/thriller that gives us a unique take on the sub-genre by giving us numerous creative elements that I have yet to see in other films of the same nature. The storyline is interesting and kept me engaged, however the film runs much longer than it should which may result in a few pacing issues during the latter half of the piece. Marlind/Stein’s direction is great, and along with great acting performances makes for another positive effort that was passed over by Hollywood studios.