Volume 94, Issue 27

Wednesday, October 18, 2000


Dr. T keeps cast in check

Winona gets Lost


Poe show sees darker sides

Winona gets Lost

Lost Souls
Starring: Winona Ryder, Ben Chaplin, Philip Baker Hall
Directed By: Janusz Kaminski

By Aaron St. John
Gazette Staff

Movies dealing with possession and exorcism are nothing new. Even since the recently re-released classic The Exorcist,/i>, the battle against the devil has long been a favourite Hollywood topic.

With that in mind, you might expect there's nothing left to explore in this area and any film that attempts to carve out a niche for itself will end up being stale and derivative. Luckily, Lost Souls manages to avoid this fate, rendering it a truly frightening film.

Winona Ryder (Girl, Interrupted; Heathers) portrays Maya Larkin, a woman with a troubled past who teaches at a seminary and is a member of a small group of exorcists. After an unsuccessful attempt to exorcise a mental patient, the group is led to believe successful true crime author Peter Kelson (Ben Chaplin) is about to become the anti-Christ.

Ostracized by the church for her beliefs, which don't correspond with modern Roman Catholic doctrine, Maya is forced to try and save the world on her own. Things are complicated by the fact that Kelson is a faithless man who is a little skeptical about the whole thing.

Lost Souls takes its time to get going and even at its climax, is not exactly fast-moving, but the film's chills are magnified by the deliberate and ponderous pace. When something happens, the transition from sleepy to frenzy heightens the tension to terrifying levels. Particularly frightening are sequences in which Maya is overtaken by cataclysmic visions.

First-time director Janusz Kaminski has done a fantastic job of giving Lost Souls a unique visual effect. An Academy award winning cinematographer for his work in Saving Private Ryan, Kaminski applies a similar approach to this film.

"Beautiful" is not a word often used to describe something that looks like this movie, but the edgy, colour-drained look is just that. Likewise, the use of different shutter speeds at various points in the film is effective in keeping the audience unsettled.

The effect of both techniques gives Lost Souls an otherworldly feel. It's doubtful the movie would have been so eerie and frightening without the use of these effects.

Winona Ryder is, as usual, marvelous in this picture. She doesn't venture far from her usual persona, but why should she stray from the role of tortured innocent, when she does it so well? Ben Chaplin, who to date has not had a breakthrough role, may have finally landed the part that pushes him to the top. He's a promising young actor, who pulls off the role of a confused and frightened man, with class.

The supporting cast is also strong. Philip Baker Hall, hot off of his performance in last year's Magnolia, portrays Kelson's uncle, Father James. Elias Koteas (The Thin Red Line and TV's Law & Order: Special Victims Unit), is quite good as Maya's morally confused ally, Deacon John Townsend. Koteas handily displays why he is one of Hollywood's most in-demand character actors.

Although Lost Souls doesn't break any new ground and loses some of its credibility towards the end, it remains a frightening film, produced by an immensely talented group of people.

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Copyright The Gazette 2000