Movies: Shelter * *
(16, general release)
A thriller with vague gothic pretensions, Shelter starts out so solidly and steadily that you imagine you're in for a sturdy and intelligent chiller that will keep you guessing till the end. But you imagine wrong because midway through, the plot loses the run of itself entirely and descends into a mire of B-movie horror.
Julianne Moore, replete with her trademark tortured look, plays Cara Harding, an eminent psychiatrist and widowed mother whose husband was murdered in a street mugging several years before. This, naturally enough, has taken some of the pep out of her step, and she struggles to cope with rearing her 10-year-old daughter, Sammy, alone.
But, adhering strictly to the rules of movie cliché, she throws herself into her work instead, and when her father, a fellow psychiatrist, introduces her to a particularly extreme case of multiple personality, she's intrigued.
Most of the time Adam (Jonathan Rhys Meyers) is a mild-mannered southern gentleman who wouldn't say boo to a goose, but when the wind changes he becomes a brash, vulgar and potentially violent character who cannot be trusted for a second. Initially, Cara is sceptical of Adam and his many moods: she doesn't believe in multiple personality disorder, and thinks it's all an act. And when the 'Adam' personality is identified as a young man who was murdered some years before, Cara decides to bring in the real Adam's mother in order to expose this imposter's lies.
The problem is, and I imagine some of you might have seen this coming, that Adam knows things only the real Adam could ever have known, and Cara begins to get the nasty suspicion that something devilish is afoot.
Cue a whistlestop tour through the clichés of backwoods southern gothic, with mad psychic crones and catatonic rubes confronting an increasingly distraught Cara, who must be wondering where all her lovely science has gone.
It's not very good, and though Mr Rhys Meyers puts his back into his performance, he's not all that frightening a monster in the end.