Monday, March 31, 2008

Lost Souls (2000, USA)

If you have rented this film, be forewarned, you are Doomed! Doomed! Doomed to two hours of fabulously filmed pretentious bullshit that will bore the shit out of you and disappoint you at every turn, all the while tormenting you with the question "How can a film that looks so good be so bad?"
Okay, fans of slow moving, artsy-fartsy devil and possession films like Rosemary's Baby (1968) and The Exorcist (1973) might like this flick, but methinks even they might decide that in the case of Lost Souls, the packaging is much, much better than the contents. No wonder it took two years to get released and that little Winona supposedly refused to do any publicity work for the movie. Not that she is all that bad in the film, for a change. Tiny, lithe, chain smoking and with baggy eyes, she looks all the part of an emotionally scarred and frightened little lady. That she is so willing to pick a fight with Satan is a little less convincing, however, or does the fact that she was already exorcised as a young teen give her some sort of immunity, like some supernatural vaccination. Dunno, for being so good in Beetljuice (1988) and Heathers (1989), Lost Souls — much like the pitiful Alien: Resurrection (1997)— raises serious doubts about her acting abilities (like: does she have any?).

The story concerns a group of religious folks and fathers that, after a misfired exorcism, become convinced that the Satan shall take over the body of true crime author Peter Kelson (Ben Chaplin) on his 33rd birthday. They actually realize this by decoding a message from the devil using the simplest of all codes any child has ever used, in which the numbers 1 to 26 corresponds to the letters A through Z. (Satan is obviously not very intelligent.) Maya Larkin (Ryder) tries to warn Peter, but he thinks she's batty, until a series of semi-supernatural and mildly spooky things happen to him. Oh, no! He's doomed! And everyone he knows is obviously in on the plot. The two run around a lot trying to stop the unavoidable, but, in the only surprise of the film, they don't. (Well, not completely, in any event.) And that's the end. A few other things happen because otherwise Lost Souls would be one short movie, but basically the flick is all cinematography and not much story. Gee whiz. How is it that a power so mighty that he can fight god, possess all sorts of people, cause regular hallucinations, make people kill and maim and generally create untold havoc always be stopped so damned easily?
That the film is so well shot is hardly surprising seeing that Janusz Kaminski is an Oscar-winning cinematographer who points the camera for virtually all Spielberg films, despite his lowly beginnings with Grim Prairie Tales (1990) and The Terror Within II (1990). Lost Souls, Kaminski's directorial debut, shows about as much promise of directorial talent as Grim Prairie Tales did in regards to cinematography, so perhaps one shouldn't write the man off completely yet. But next time he should probably demand a script for his film.

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