Ben Chaplin, Betsy Stahl, blog, courtroom sketch artist, drama, Elias Koteas, entertainment, Film, Horror, Janusz Kaminski, John Hurt, Lost Souls, movies, Philip Baker Hall, Pierce Gardner, rants, religion, review, Sarah Wynter, spirituality, thoughts, thriller, Winona Ryder
Lost Souls (2000)
Directed by Janusz Kaminski Story by Pierce Gardner & Betsy Stahl Screenplay by Pierce Gardner
Known as an already accomplished cinematographer, working on Saving Private Ryan, Schindler’s List and Catch Me If You Can, Lost Souls was Kaminski’s directorial debut. In a story about a group of Catholics believing the Devil to attempt taking human form as they try and stop him. Four members of the church venture out to meet with Henry (John Diehl) who had asked to participate in an exorcism taking place within a mental hospital. In attendance are Maya (Winona Ryder), John (Elias Koteas) one other pastor and Father Lareaux (John Hurt). Setting up, Henry straps himself into a chair to ensure his corporation. They begin the ritual as Mya is taken back to a similar situation from her past with Father Lareaux, having been the one that rid her of her own lost soul. (The entirety of which is excellently directed) Start to finish you are presented with beautiful and dark images making for great shot after another, repeatedly. We’re back to present-day as guards try to break down the down at the sound of chaos coming from the other side. The door bursts open and the priest rushes out, sinking down to the ground, heavily breathing and left in a daze.
In court we find Peter Kelson(Ben Chaplin) drawing a courtroom sketch, sharing an odd moment with the man convicted as he turns around and smiles right at him. We’re taken back to Maya whose transcribs a letter filled with numerous numbers obtained from Henry; with the name Peter Kelson being part of the answer. He happens to be a best selling author who worked closely with killers to discover the “evil” behind them and not fully believing in any definitive evil, having seen what he has in his profession. Having a petition denied on account of Maya’s past and the assumption that her deciphering the letters were merely a reflection of what she wanted to see puts her in an off setting mood. She goes to the restroom as her demons have arisen to play with her mind, setting the scenery with Henry appearing in front of her holding a knife.
Maya dresses up to go speak with Peter and makes herself right at home in his office. Challenging his former thought with the notion of knowing personally that both God and the Devil existed. Speaking about Henry and how she would like them to meet with the assurance of finding him to be rather “interesting.” But something follows Peter back to his apartment as he dally’s around for a bit, later having dinner with his girlfriend. He does mention Maya’s offer earlier but states having no intention on following through with what had been proposed. So it would only make sense that the next day he meets up with her to go visit the man she had told him about. The problem being that it seemed after the exorcism Henry had gone into some catatonic state that he hadn’t come out of since. Not being the only one affected by the exorcism, Father Lareaux too, had been somewhat non-existent, leaving those wondering what the next move should entail if unable to do anything without his help.
While seeking answers through prayer, John (Elias) is able to sneak into a formal party of Peter’s and point a gun at his face, getting his neck snapped from a bystander who steps in. That’s what happens when you try to pray. Returning home a bit shook up, they hear the news of the old lady who lived next to them having hung herself the night before. **Before having dinner with his wife he had tried to put on some music and had the sound turned all the way up but couldn’t hear it. It seemed the neighbor had no trouble though and spent a good majority of time banging on the wall, caving to the noise.** Maya later goes to a diner to collect her thoughts when a little girl approaches her and makes polite conversation. It seemed Maya’s visions had come back as the girl changes her demeanor and starts creepily jumping in slow motion saying “Jesus is dead” repeatedly; yeah that might freak me out to. She comes to and finds that there was never any girl, immediately rushing out.
Peter decides to do some research to discover a twist: it was he who had been decided as the Anti-Christ. Asked to reevaluate his life, an attempt of solace in the church ends with the Christ on the cross broken off and falling before them. Unaware of what to do next he goes to Maya, who answers remaining questions as to why he has been chosen and what it meant for him next. Breaking into John’s house becomes their next move in hopes of discovering the same thing he had before attempting to murder Peter. Shortly after, Maya begins feeling the familiar presence as Henry presents her with the thought of it being a hallucination. The scratch she receives saying otherwise as she runs around the house, ending in a small showdown that turns into no one being able to harm him because of his soon to be transformation.
Peter returns to his home in search of a hidden clue when he finds something hinting at infidelity from his girlfriend. A pair of keys and past memory of her getting on the elevator from a different floor when riding up to their home. Using the keys he breaches the apartment to find the biggest, over-dramatic pentacle drawn underneath his bed; completely unneeded. It turns out the Pastor had become possessed and they in turn do an exorcism in which Peter walks in to find the Father choking Maya. Retreating back to the church, he learns of his entire life having been a lie. Anyone he had ever come in contact with, the Pastor that raised him, had all brought him to his 33rd birthday in which he gives in and shoots three people before driving off to do what was necessary: end the movie.
Final Thoughts: The movie was disappointing because it loses you in the last 30 minutes. It’s a well shot movie. There are some great scenes with a dark color scheme and what not. What was wrong with the last part of the film? Well, it got kinda silly for me. In my opinion Winona had already gone through the “dark” phase by 2000 and it stopped working for her after. Though the cast didn’t take away from the film, the story just fell through. It started to get cheesy and ended silly. After leaving the church they drive off and wait for the exact time of when it would be considered his birthday and at first he’s like “hey, I’m alright, it’s ok!” and then the stereo flickers and she sees a 666 appear and shoots him in the head; doesn’t forget the double-tap at least. But still, a pretty weak way to end it all. I’m sure if it had been longer they may have been able to come up with something better but it felt too lazed out. They briefly discussed Maya’s past but they could have done without the back story and it wouldn’t have made a difference. Good intent just poor execution.