Reviewed by: Curtis D. Smith
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|
|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.
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?