Lost Souls

Directed by Janusz Kaminski
Starring: Winona Ryder, Ben Chaplin, John Hurt, Philip Baker Hall.
MPAA Rating: R for violence/terror and some language.

Review by Matt Heffernan <matt@filmhead.com>
October 19, 2000

Cinematographer Janusz Kaminski has had a widely varied career, working as DP in films from the barely-released Vanilla Ice starrer Cool as Ice to Spielberg's Schindler's List. Even when they're bad, his films still look good. His work for Spielberg, on his last four films (and at least his next two), has been incredible, winning him two Academy Awards. Now, he has directed his own film, and hired his former assistant, Mauro Fiore (Get Carter), as DP. As you may expect, the film looks great, but that's about it.

Lost Souls stars Winona Ryder as Maya Larkin, a young woman who works for the Catholic Church as an advisor on demonic possession. Having gone through the experience herself, and an exorcism, she is well qualified. She assists Father Lareaux (John Hurt) in the exorcism of an insane convict, but it goes terribly wrong, and the Father is badly injured. She takes home some papers that the convict wrote on, and tries to analyze them.

Since they are all numbers ranging from 1-26, it's obvious that it's a cipher. She finally decrypts it, and finds the name "Peter Kelson" mentioned as the next host of Satan. She doesn't recognize the name until she hears it on TV, during an interview with an author (Ben Chaplin) by that name who has written about the criminally insane. He is an atheist (surprise, surprise), but Maya must convince him of the prophecy before it is too late, and all Hell literally breaks loose.

This film was supposed to be released about a year ago, but was shelved until now. Quite obviously, it was too similar to many other films out at the time, including Stigmata, Dogma, The Omega Code, and End of Days. And, as you certainly remember, The Sixth Sense dominated the whole spooky/supernatural market. They didn't bother with an Academy screening, because the film isn't very good. They did, however, start advertising it last summer, and it has continually been bumped forth. After all this time, we finally get to see it, and all I'm inspired to do is yawn.

What's amazing about Lost Souls is that it's almost good. There is a palpable atmosphere similar to an old-fashioned horror film, right out of Universal in the 1930s. Some visuals are genuinely scary, and the plot is a well-worn shocker that has worked since Revelations was written. If only it wasn't so incredibly slow. The film lacks the pacing it needs, even with a short 97-minute running length. Sorry, Janusz, but a film can't be both boring and scary.

I'd suggest that Kaminski stick with his core competency, and leave the direction to Spielberg.

For more information, go to the Internet Movie Database:
Lost Souls (2000)

Here's some merchandise for sale at Amazon.com
Lost Souls (2000) -- VHS
Lost Souls (2000) -- DVD
Lost Souls: Soundtrack -- Compact Disc

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Review © 2000 Matt Heffernan