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Movie Review

Lost Souls

MPAA Rating: R for violence/terror and some language

Reviewed by: Curtis D. Smith
CONTRIBUTOR

Very Offensive
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Moviemaking Quality:

Primary Audience:
Adults
Genre:
Thriller
Length:
1 hr. 42 min.
Year of Release:
2000
USA Release:
_____
Relevant Issues
Levitation in “Lost Souls”

Can Christians be demon possessed? In what ways can Satan and his demons influence believers? Answer

Do you think there is a Hell? A US News and World Report poll reported that 35% do not believe in a hell. The US News January 31, 2000 cover story says “fire and brimstone” is “out of fashion, modern thinking says the netherworld isn’t so hot after all.” Is there an actual place called Hell? Go

Featuring: Winona Ryder, Ben Chaplin, John Hurt, Philip Baker Hall, Elias Koteas
Director: Janusz Kaminski
Producer: Meg Ryan, Nina R. Sadowsky
Distributor: New Line Cinema

To be fair, one of the reasons “Lost Souls” is hopeless and lame is that it has fallen victim to bad timing, bad press and bad luck.

With reports of production problems and roving release dates, “Lost Souls” also comes on the heels of three other substandard “devil incarnate” films (“Omega Code,” “End of Days” and “Bless the Child”) which never allowed it the chance to stand alone. But that really doesn’t matter that much because it’s still lame, all on its own.

In similar fashion to the aforementioned films, “Lost Souls” tells the story of reluctant demoniac hunter Maya Larkin (Winona Ryder) who learns the identity of the would-be Antichrist just days before he is to become possessed.

Winona Ryder and Ben Chaplin in “Lost Souls”She and her counterparts, including Father Lareaux (John Hurt), have stumbled across a mathematical code written by a demon possessed murderer (John Diehl) which points to famous New York crime writer Peter Kelson (Ben Chaplin). When confronted, Peter not only flat-out dismisses belief in Satan, but bristles at the notion he might be the devil’s potential host. But aside from the code, Peter has all the right qualifications to be Antichrist including age, heritage and a faithless mind-set, according to Maya. Most of Peter’s friends and family, including his priest uncle James (Philip Baker Hall) and fiancé Claire (Sarah Wynter) mysteriously pooh-pooh his concerns and write off Maya’s outlandish warnings as folly. Peter agrees with their assessments until strange occurrences lead him to question the motives of his loved ones and further explore Maya’s assessment.

Here’s another reason “Lost Souls” achieves lame status: A portion of the film’s promotional materials say it is like “Rosemary’s Daughter” (an instant setup for disaster). Films must be unique and well thought out, not some rip-off of a bygone idea (let alone recent ones). Furthermore, if that film is a shameless rip-off it had better be a pretty darn good one and this one is not.

In fact, there are few, if any, real scares from start to finish in “Lost Souls”. Sure, the premise is spooky (albeit trite by now), some of the special effects are creepy (although stale) and some of the action is frightening (yet clumsy and feigned) but other than a few bumps in the night there’s nothing to fear.

And as usual, Satan receives way more recognition and reverence than he deserves. “Lost Souls” treats him with celebrity status as the universe’s poster boy for evil (a title he no doubt deserves) but that is where much of the focus of this film lies. It’s almost as if he and God are sparring on a level playing field and if it weren’t for a few diligent, good-hearted humans Satan would take over at any time. The fact is, Satan owns the world now and the antichrist will take power during the end times, according to the book of Revelation, and there is little anyone in Hollywood can do about it. A better lesson to learn from this story is that while Satan is out to destroy us, we should not fear him, but rather resist him and be firm in our faith (1 Peter 5:8-9).

Moderate notoriety for the devil is not the worst part of “Lost Souls”, however. The story is utterly predictable, the acting is tedious and the attempts to scare the audience are laughable. Other than a few doe-eyed shots of Winona Ryder’s absurd “fearful” look, her performance is flat, boring and void of emotion. It seems that she was mentally somewhere else throughout the duration of the shoot. With the exception of Ben Chaplin (who looks as if he is trying a little too hard to make up for the ineptitude that surrounds him) the rest of the cast appears dreadfully ham-fisted.

This collection of futile nonsense points in one direction: Janusz Kaminski. This Academy Award-winning cinematographer, who has expertly shot film for the likes of Steven Spielberg and Cameron Crowe (in “Schindler’s List,” “Saving Private Ryan” and “Jerry Maguire”) has got a long, long way to go as director. It is ultimately Kaminski who must take the credit for this film’s prolific mediocrity. While his attention to detail starts out strong (with slow motion shots, wide angle close ups and eclectic imagery) it isn’t long before it all goes by the wayside and the clichés take over. Even so, what few tricks he uses have little to do with the essence of the story. Instead, they seem as if they are there only to pay homage to his past successes behind the camera.

It all ends (though not soon enough) with one final slap in the face of the collective audience. Wrapped up by one of the worst, most blasé and horribly opportune endings ever to grace the big screen, “Lost Souls” whimpers to a mind-bogglingly asinine end and leaves you feeling robbed of 102 minutes of your life.

Isn’t it funny how many lame movies are sometimes so aptly named?


Viewer Comments
The opening scene of a crucifix necklace dangling over the wet T-shirt was pretty tasteless as were Wynona’s tortured gasping which sounded more like orgasmic moaning. What holds this movie together is Ben Chaplin, a very talented actor who brings a touch of class to this derivative hodge podge of poorly written Hollywood cliches. The “Die Yuppie Scum” line got used up in the eighties, the evil black gook is a cheap shot and we know where the head spinning stunt came from. My Ratings: [2/1]
—Blake Forsythe, age 33
This was the worst movie ever! I kept waiting for something good to happen, I mean, the movie had potenial, but then it ended in the worst excuse for an ending I have ever seen. I have never heard an entire audience say “what?”. Everyone in the theater was mad and disappointed. I guess it is always a bad sign when the TV previews are pulled the first day the movie comes out in theaters! My Ratings: [3/1]
—Kelly Scott, age 23
I enjoyed Lost Souls a lot. There isn’t a lot of foul language, which was refreshing, and I enjoyed Winona Ryder’s acting. I think the reason this film is getting so many bad reviews is because it has labeled itself as “the new Exorcist,” so of course when people go see this movie, they already have certain expectations in mind. Then, when the movie doesn’t live up to “The Exorcist,” people walk away feeling like they’ve been ripped off. So I guess you could say the filmakers doomed themselves when they tried to live up to those standards. However, its not extremely gory and although its not really scary, its still a movie worth enjoying. My Ratings: [3/3]
—Maggi, age 24
Everything was going fine… until the abrupt ending! I felt just as the reviewer and the rest of the audience felt-ROBBED! Go see “Pay it Forward” instead. My Ratings: [1/1]
—Adam, age 18
“Lost Souls” is more intelligent than a typical horror movie and really held my interest. There was some profanity and violence, but not in an excessive way as most in this genre do… This movie was dark and meant to instill real fear in its viewers. These days, the belief in a literal devil is cast aside while most people will say that they still believe in God. This movie focuses on getting the viewer to believe in a literal devil. This may be only for the sake of horror, but even still, its refreshing to see such a bold challenge. The Bible says that Satan is most definitely real and underestimating him is deadly, yet that is exactly what most of our culture is doing even though they are more spiritually open to God than ever. While I don’t recommend this for children, I think the average Christian will find a lot to like here—if they like being scared. My Ratings: [3½/3½]
—Kerry Ledbetter, age 24
Movie Critics
…Violence is listed as extreme due to several people being shot and killed, with others being threatened with guns and knives and a man breaking another man’s neck…
—ScreenIt!
…one of the worst duds of the year…
—Christopher Null, FilmCritic.com
…another barely-there plot cobbled around a series of prettily vacant images…
—Gemma Files, Film.com
…misleading religious context…
—Preview Family Movie and TV Review