Just when you thought Winona Ryder was really going to make a name for herself, after Girl, Interrupted, a movie like Lost Souls hits theaters and you just lose faith.
Everyone should have just seen it coming. Lost Souls was released nearly a year later than what it was originally planned for, and you could just watch as the release date continued to be scooted back, as if New Line was afraid to show this film to audiences.
The funny thing is that if just two things were changed in the movie, Lost Souls could be pretty good. What are those two things? Change the last twenty minutes of the movie, and get rid of Winona Ryder's character.
The film starts off shaky but finds it footing. We are presented with Winona Ryder performing an exorcism, and then investigating what that possessed person was writing (about the antichrist, no less), and also with Ben Chaplin, a courtroom artist who specializes in murderous behavior. He's a nice guy with a nice life, but he's also destined to become the antichrist in a matter of days.
He doesn't believe it at first but things begin to fall together, and things get weirder and weirder. While Ryder has scary hallucinations (she was exorcised when she was younger), Chaplin begins to see and hear things, or not hear things that other people hear. One of the most haunting moments occurs when he tries listening to a tape of an exorcism, but hears nothing, but his next door neighbor can hear it roaring at full blast.
There have been a lot of movies like Lost Souls in the last couple of years, such as End of Days (more of an action flick, but still a similar story), Stigmata (very similar to this one and much better), and also the rerelease of The Exorcist, which says it all. Lost Souls is not very original, but it kept me captive, mainly because of the strange artistic style of the film. At first it was just annoying, but it grew on me, and I think the way the director approached this film was a good idea.
Aside from its appearance, the movie also gets pretty creepy, especially when Ryder has her hallucinations. The only problems is that none of these scenes really make any sense in the long run, since you never are told exactly why she is having them. We get a brief glimpse of her getting exorcised, but that is it, and this leads me into my point about Winona Ryder's character be useless. She is completely undeveloped, with no background at all. A fast flashback is supposed to tell us everything about her but instead we are told nothing, except for a few useless facts. In the present, her character is uninteresting (everything culminated by one ugly wig... stick with the short hair, Winona) and confusing, since she is supposed to be very religious but despite her performing religious acts, we never really get the sense that she is a devout Catholic. When she first approaches Chaplin's character, she does it deceivingly, which is weird considering that she is supposed to be morally upstanding. Furthermore, Chaplin's character is so much more interesting and thought out than Ryder's that I wish ninety percent of the film had been devoted just to him. I would much rather see his reaction to his supposed transformation than watch Ryder try to convince him.
And now moving onto the second major flaw in the film... The ending. The entirety of the movie kept me attentive, but I lost it in the end. A lot of stuff happens in the last twenty minutes without explanation, such as friends turning into enemies, people 'going' crazy, and so forth. People are shot and killed without any emotion, by the main characters, and the movie never stops to explain why all of this is happening. Sometimes movies like this are hard to wrap up, and Lost Souls wraps up like most other devil possession movies do (I hope I didn't give too much away...), but it does it in such a way that seems very inappropriate and very lame. The ending is anything but interesting, and the movie just stops, leaving the audience questioning what the hell just happened.
I give kudo points to some interesting and daring direction and film editing, as well as a compelling story, but I must slam the ending and the weak central character that destroy this movie. The people in charge shouldn't have had so much faith in those who were sitting on the self destruct button.
Review by Erik Samdahl unless otherwise indicated.
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