As I’ve said before, I’m an easy mark for films about angels and demons, and often find myself sitting through a lot of tedious dreck, for the sake of those batshit crazy moments when Hell literally breaks loose. The major problem with Lost Souls (2000) is that those moments are so few and far between, and there’s a lot of soggy waffle filling up the gaps.
For those who don’t know, this lethargic supernatural thriller stars Winona Ryder as a young woman named ‘Maya Larkin’, who was once possessed by a demon and now works alongside her saviour, ‘Father Lareaux’ (John Hurt), to help exorcise other unfortunate souls. While attempting to drive the evil out of a convicted, clinically insane killer, it’s revealed to the gang of godly do-gooders that The Anti-Christ himself will shortly be arriving on Earth, via the corporeal form of a famous crime writer named ‘Peter Kelson’ (Ben Chaplin). With Lareaux incapacitated, and his fellow priests either dragging their heels or buckling under the pressure, it’s left to Maya to investigate the pessimistic prophecy and assess its veracity, by getting closer to Kelson. What follows is a lot of slow-burning blah, as Kelson comes to grudgingly accept the truth, and Maya struggles under the weight of her responsibility to derail his despicable destiny.
Much like Stigmata, the whole thing is shot like an arty-but-antiseptic music video, with dreary desaturation, lots of blinding backlighting, and unnecessarily intense close-ups of characters, which reduce them to sweaty lumps of meat, rather than living, breathing human beings. Meh. There are a couple of fun, fantastical scenes here and there, but the overall tone vacillates randomly between chilling, boring and laughably ludicrous. I quite liked Ryder’s character though, and I think she does some good work here, in spite of the silly story and suffocating cinematography. I particularly liked the scene where she first meets Kelson and is desperately trying to come off as a witty, flirtatious admirer of his, but can’t quite conceal the skittish shut-in she’s become since her previous encounter with Pure Evil. I’m sure a lot of audience members (assuming this movie ever had an audience) were disappointed by the way the movie ends, but I kinda liked it. Obviously, I’d much rather have seen a huge explosion of spooky-crazy SFX, with a host of angels slinging flaming swords at a horde of multi-headed beasts… but that would have been too much to hope for from this a movie this modest. In the end it all came down to Maya and her gun, and a slight, smug shift in Kelson’s demeanour. Blam. In terms of her character arc, I thought it was a very satisfying ending… even if it made absolutely no sense whatsoever from a logical or even Biblical perspective. I mean, why would those wealthy-looking Satanists go to all the trouble of breeding and raising the perfect mortal vessel for their monstrous Master, and not bother hiring a couple of bodyguards to protect their investment properly? Especially since they knew exactly when his transformation was supposed to occur, and there had already been one serious attempt on his life by that point. Why not just lock him up safely for a couple of days, and wait it out? Silly Satanists! Too busy sinning to think clearly, I suppose…
Meanwhile, I have to mention Sarah Wynter, who once again proved that Aussies can’t be trusted as Kelson’s seemingly-innocent-but-blatantly-up-to-something fiancée ‘Claire Van Owen’… and Alfre Woodard, who played the sceptical psychiatric ‘Dr. Allen’, and had some nice scenes with Ryder and Chaplin, but didn’t even get a credit at the end of the movie! For shame.