Lost Souls

2000, Movie, R, 102 mins


There's a reason this muddled tale of demonic hijinks and devil worship — the directing debut of acclaimed cinematographer Janusz Kaminski — has been on the shelf for more than a year. It's terrible. And having awaited release for so long, it's unfortunate that it slunk into theaters just in time to be blown out of the water by the re-release of THE EXORCIST (1973). Wide-eyed Maya Larkin (Winona Ryder, in a thoroughly unconvincing wig) lives on the grounds of St. Ursula's Catholic Church, teaching grammar school students for her bed and board. Though she depends on the church for spiritual protection, Maya — who was once rescued from demonic possession by the elderly Father Lareaux (John Hurt) — belongs to a renegade cabal who believe that the end of the world as we know it is near. She accompanies Lareaux and Deacon John Townsend (Elias Koteas) to the disastrous exorcism of mass murderer Henry Birdson (John Diehl), which leaves Lareaux comatose. But Maya escapes with a bundle of Birdson's papers and deciphers their terrifying message, encrypted in a numeric code. Satan is soon to be made flesh in the person of best-selling true-crime writer Peter Kelson (Ben Chaplin) and dreadful suffering will be unleashed upon the world. Not surprisingly, Kelson thinks Maya's nuts until he's besieged by Satanic signs and portents, like the life-size carving of Jesus that falls off the cross as Kelson begs for spiritual guidance. Kaminski dresses the cliches in a highly stylized look — all grainy, blown-out exteriors and interior scenes polished to a glum sepia glow. But he might as well not have bothered, since this slow-paced spiritual thriller is remarkably short on thrills, unless you've never seen a movie about exorcism, the Antichrist or sneaky Satanists. STIGMATA seems groundbreaking by comparison, and THE OMEN seems like a motion-picture milestone. leave a comment --Maitland McDonagh

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