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LOST SOULS

SYNOPSIS:
Ailing Father Lareaux (John Hurt) leads a small group of Catholics called the X-Fathers, who believe Satan will soon become man, just as God did as Jesus. They are thus committed to exorcising demons from host bodies, with the help of secular adviser Maya Larkin (Winona Ryder), a Catholic school teacher and former victim of demonic possession. She suspects a smug best-selling crime author, Peter Kelson (Ben Chaplin), who studies serial killers, may become the manifestation of Mephistopheles. He meets a few prerequisites; he was never baptised and is a child of incest. As he and Maya learn more tell-tale signs, they enter a world full of spooky incidences, self-discovery, and ultimate confrontation.

“Long-time Speilberg cinematographer Janusz Kaminski, whose Oscar nominations include Saving Private Ryan and Schindler's List, makes his stylish but disappointing directorial debut with Lost Souls. His atmospheric visual details can't save the film from Pierce Gardiner's routine, repetitive, and quite rueful script. The fact that Lost Souls has been held from release since 1998 says little for the studio's confidence. Unlike wine, it hasn't improved with age. It's obvious the studio wants to ride the Mephistophelian wave after The Exorcist raked in millions and created a resurgence of Satan bashing. While it and films like Rosemary's Baby and The Omen set the standard, Lost Souls resembles a recruitment film for Catholicism, proposing agnosticism as a sure-fire way to horns and cloved-hooves. A few loud noises and absurd spectacles may not even wake you from long patches of somnambulism. Black runny stuff and cockroaches flailing on their backs is about as scary as it gets, which is hell for clean freaks but hardly Satanic. If only Winona spider-walked down the stairs. She looks paler than normal here, with a few fiery flashes in her eyes the best she can do from the seriously lacking script. British actor Chaplin looks flat reacting to these extraordinary developments; maybe he was just concentrating on his Yankee accent. Only Philip Baker Hall, as a faux priest, is memorable with his line, "They had their 2,000 years; now it's our turn." The abrupt, "oh-screw-it" conclusion is the final nail in this weak demon. Like Kelson says in what's meant to be a scary moment, "I was surprised but I was never frightened." Me neither.
Shannon J Harvey

"Lost Souls is a classic case of a good idea spun too far out of control. The clutch of millennial movies dealing with the apocalypse which was sure to descend on the world when the calendar clicked over (End of Days and its ilk) relied heavily on special effects and massive explosions to tell their (often thin) tales. Lost Souls at least employs a consistent point of view and a passable theory. The writers of this film take the premise that if Satan was to take human form, it would be done quietly, without huge fanfare - the better to hatch his evil plans. What transpires though is that they lose control of the plot, with ever more ludicrous twists and turns in the second half of the movie making for a sadly uninspiring ending. After a taut first half, these developments feel contrived and empty. Director Janusz Kaminski was Kryztof Kieszlowski’s cinematographer; so it comes as no surprise that the film looks great and has a ton of brooding atmosphere. Winona Ryder is very good as the rather erratic Maya; and Ben Chaplin equally so as the bewildered Peter. Ryder plays Maya with just the right blend of sincere conviction and possible psychotic derangement. John Hurt and Phillip Baker Hall both have marginal roles; but John Deihl gets some of the creepiest moments in the film. A brave attempt that’s brought undone by the lack of discipline in the screenplay, Lost Souls is a true mixed bag - moments of brilliance sitting uncomfortably alongside moments of folly."
David Edwards

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CRITICAL COUNT
Favourable: 0
Unfavourable: 1
Mixed: 1

TRAILER

LOST SOULS (MA)
(US)

CAST: Winona Ryder, Ben Chaplin, Sarah Wynter, Philip Baker Hall

DIRECTOR: Janusz Kaminsk

PRODUCER: Meg Ryan, Nina R. Sadowsky

SCRIPT: Pierce Gardner (story and screenplay), Betsy Stahl (story)

CINEMATOGRAPHER: Mauro Fiore

EDITOR: Anne Goursaud, Andrew Mondshein (recut)

MUSIC: Jan A.P. Kaczmarek

PRODUCTION DESIGN: Garreth Stover

RUNNING TIME: 102 minutes

AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Roadshow

AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: April 24, 2001







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