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LOST SOULS

Review by Andrew Manning (9/00)

Release: 2000, New Line
Starring: Winona Ryder, Ben Chaplin, John Hurt, Elias Koteas
Director: Janusz Kaminski
MPAA Rating: [R] violence, language, sexuality, nudity
Genre: Horror


Deliver us from evil...



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SUMMARY

A young woman (Ryder) must convince a reporter (Chaplin) that he is destined to become possessed by the Devil, and the vessel through which Satan will return to earth.

THE SUDDEN RUNDOWN

An Apocalypse movie so bad it makes End of Days look good.

WHAT'S GOOD

Lost Souls doesn't have much going for it, but it's got a couple of scenes that prevent it from being a complete dud. Winona Ryder's character is plagued by hallucinations throughout the movie, treating audiences to some freaky visuals, including a bathroom that erodes before her eyes until black death is pouring out of the walls.

For the brief time he is in the movie, William Hurt has quite a disturbing presence as a lunatic. In the movie's opening scene, he curiously straps himself to a chair as some priests prepare to perform an exorcism on him. Later, he is stalking Ryder and Chaplin through a house that is so creepy you would think the characters would no better than to go inside (of course, they don't).

Most of the religious symbolism found in Lost Souls is utterly transparent and lame. There is a single good one, though, and that's when a statue of the Crucifixion cracks, causing the image of Jesus to fall and hang upside-down, staring directly at Chaplin.


WHAT'S BAD

Why is it so damned impossible for Hollywood to make a decent Apocalyptic Devil movie? In the last year, we've been assaulted with End of Days and Bless the Child, neither one of which could get it right. Lost Souls is even worse--it takes itself so seriously while it's so laughably bad.

Winona Ryder walks around predicting doom and gloom everywhere she goes, but it always feels like she's acting. She has to convince Ben Chaplin that he's destined to be the living embodiment of the Devil on earth come his 30th birthday--and of course, in one of the cheesiest moments in all of cinemtic history, it's revealed that his 30th birthday just happens to be a few days away. Oh, horror! Naturally, Chaplin is skeptical, until weird signs begin to turn up that fit Ryder's prophecy: he discovers he was born from an incestuous relationship, he was never baptized, and has been living near a pentacle that he didn't know about.

The problem is that Chaplin's character is rather snotty and thoroughly boring--so who really cares if he's doomed to become the vessel of the Devil? Hell, satanic possession might make him interesting.

Philip Baker Hall makes an appearance in this movie as a cult zealot, again proving my theory that there should be no life after Seinfeld. As in The Talented Mr. Ripley and The Contender, I cannot take this guy seriously after seeing him as Lt. Bookman the library cop on Seinfeld. His presence in Lost Souls just makes a stupid movie that much more laughable, moving it from bad to worse.

Lost Souls has no problem killing off plot threads whenever things threaten to get the slightest bit complicated. For example, Chaplin discovers that his girlfriend is really part of some crazy cult; Winona Ryder gets into a catfight with her, shoots her dead, and then Chaplin walks away like it ain't no thing. Elsewhere, the movie fails to thoroughly explore William Hurt's character. He's a strange fellow, at times seemingly completely evil, at other times seeming like a good guy who knows there's a force in him he can't control. That's never picked up either.

The ending is utterly anti-climactic. It's so awful that I'm tempted to just spoil it here and save you all the trouble of sitting through this damned movie. But for now, I'll keep it quiet and just say that it's such a non-event, that you'll wonder, "Is that it???" right after it happens.

The concept of a horror movie about religious Armageddon has always appealed to me, but it just doesn't seem that Hollywood is capable of making a good one. Lost Souls definitively demonstrates that it's simply a lost cause...


Rating: 2.5 out of 10 (0=Abysmal, 5=Average, 10=Excellent)
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SEE ALSO...
Buy the novel The Exorcist by William Peter Blatty
Movie Review: The Blair Witch Project
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