Lost Souls

The title itself is as nonsensical as the movie, as there is no mention of any ‘souls’ anywhere in the film, and the only thing that gets ‘lost’ is 90 minutes of your valuable life span. I suppose you can’t fault the movie for seeming ultra-dated, since the finished product sat on a shelf for about a year, but this movie could have been made in 1803, and it would STILL reek of other, better movies. The past few years have brought with it a seemingly endless string of devil movies, each one as moronic as the one before it.

Bless the Child – Satan stalks a young child. The insipid Kim Basinger to the rescue.

Stigmata – Satan stalks a young woman with bad teeth.The wimpy Gabriel Byrne to the rescue.

End of Days – Satan stalks a sincerely annoying young woman. The geriatric Arnold Schwarzenegger to the rescue.

The Ninth Gate – Satan stalks a book. Johnny Depp and his new goatee to the rescue.

Lost Souls – Satan stalks an author. The emaciated Winona Ryder to the rescue.

The Devil’s Advocate – Satan stalks a lawyer. Nobody comes to the rescue. We all hate lawyers.

So what’s with this new devil kick? Well, it’s easy:
To steal an idea is much easier than to create one.

For those who would still search this one out despite these sincere ciriticisms (as I would), here’s how Lost Souls breaks down:
A. Lots of talk.
B. Tilty camera angles.
C. LOTS of dripping water.
D. Winona Ryder standing around and staring at her surroundings like a newborn calf about to be gut-shot.
E. Distorted flashbacks that are meant to be unsettling, but instead come of as mildly nauseating.
F. Some more talk, displayed with tilty camera angles in a room full of dripping water, and Winona’s empty head boggling at some annoying flashbacks.

Director Janusz Kaminski has made a name for himself in Hollywood as “Steven Spielberg’s Cinematographer”, so that puts him in a class of directors somewhere above ‘MTV-graduate’ directors and somewhere below Alan Smithee. It seems that there’s now an entire generation of movie directors who belong to the “Fuck the script! All I need are 23 smoke machines, 2 strobe lights and a broken tripod!” school of filmmaking.

For those who think I’m making this up and are just sure that Lost Souls has something to offer, I offer up this entirely accurate ‘plot description’:

Winona Ryder plays a character we’re never really introduced to, and apparently she’s some sort of high-end Vatican Secretary or something. Her main purpose seems to be following these ominous priests around and taking notes. She learns that a local author is due to transform into Satan fairly soon, and she then goes about trying to convince him of his fate.

My favorite scene comes when Winona’s character turns to the poor guy and says “Oh, the transformation isn’t due until your 33rd birthday” and the schmuck replies “Well, that’s tomorrow!” Call me easy to please, but that’s screenwriting!

Of course we couldn’t just have a movie with two characters, so here comes the old character actor parade: Ooh, look there’s Elias Koteas from Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and Look Who’s Talking Now! Oh wait, he’s dead now. Ooh, John Hurt! What? Only shows up for the first few scenes? Well, there’s Alfre Woodard…and look! Philip Baker Hall as a priest! Gee, I wonder if he’s really evil, only we’re not supposed to know that yet!

All I can say is (and I’ll spell it here just to accentuate my point) Y-A-W-N! I just find it hysterical that so many movie studios will simply hop aboard the latest trend, churn out some wholly inferior product, and then scratch their asses in wonder when they don’t break any box-office records.

Since I’d never want to leave the actors out of the fun, here’s my take on the performances. Winona, never a brilliant thespian on her best day, is simply hysterical here. Problem is, it’s not a comedy. She’s completely out of her element, and if she ever discovers what her element is, she should stay there. The older she gets, the cuter she ain’t, so she should maybe be a little choosier next time the script man comes calling. Ben Chaplin has a tough role, since he plays a normal guy who basically learns that he’s about to become the devil. I suppose there’s not much research an actor could do for a role like this, but I’m pretty sure that a 90-minute ‘open-mouth stare’ isn’t the best way to go.

These cases of Hollywood plagiarism would be funnier if they weren’t so depressing…and more than a little insulting. Every one of these assembly-line no-thought-involved movies is another slap in the face of moviegoers. Lazy junk like this is proof positive that disinterest and apathy are the most common commodities in the Hollywood studio system. And while this form of self-cannibalization is pretty damn sad, a lot could be forgiven if even ONE of these movies were worth seeing! I mean, how freakin’ HARD is it to make at least ONE Satan movie and make it more exciting and scary than it is familiar and stupid?

What’s truly upsetting is that a spate of awful movies like this will essentially kill any chance of a GOOD one being made. I can just see it now: Someone actually writes a very cool ‘devil’ screenplay. It’s a clever and dark and exciting tale, complete with fascinating characters, unpredictable plot twists and crackling dialogue. The script is tossed out at every single studio, and WHY? “Because there’s already been 15 Devil movies in the past five years, and every one of THOSE ones sucked ass and made no money!” cry all the lazy-ass producers. That’s right; every rip-off crapfest movie that fails at the box-office is another nail in the coffin for ‘good movies’. That’s why I’m always so angry.

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