Monday, August 30, 2010

A Decade of Dreck #28: Lost Souls

Charge Shot!!! is celebrating the end of the decade in the most masochistic way we know how - by watching and writing about the 100 worst movies of the last ten years as defined by film review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes. Click here to see RT's complete list, click here for more about the Decade of Dreck project, and click here to see all of the movies we've done so far.


One of the most overdone tropes in cinema today is the old "possessed by the Devil" plot. The theme of Satan coming up from Hell to tamper in the affairs of mortals/and or bring about the End of Days is so beaten-to-death that the mere mention of it drives this particular writer to acts of violence against himself and others. The only thing abused more often at the multiplex is probably stories about serial killers and numerological codes.

Around the time of the dawn of the new millennium, Satanic/end of the world movies were so omnipresent that this week's feature had its release date pushed back by over a year. Wouldn't you know it, Lost Souls was pushed back so far to avoid the demonic possession fad that it ended up coming to theaters on the same day that the Exorcist was re-released!

Speaking of the Exorcist, there have been to my knowledge precisely three movies that dealt with Satanic themes well: the aforementioned Exorcist, Rosemary's Baby, and the Omen, all of which I watched last October for my Nights on Bald Mountain project. So if you haven't figured it out by now, I'm very well-versed in this territory, and I'm kind of sick of it.

Lost Souls doesn't really blaze a trail into any new territory as far as diabolically-centric entertainment goes. You have your character with a crisis of faith, your priests chanting spells in Latin to banish demons from human bodies, your sinister plot to give birth to the Antichrist. Yadda yadda yadda bad movie.
Winona Ryder (whom for the record I love but this sort of performance is all too typical of her latter day career) stars as an expert in demonic possession and a veteran of the experience herself. She goes around with a bunch of Catholic priests helping them exorcise unclean spirits. What expertise she has that a bunch of priests don't is never really addressed, she's just kind of there. This guy plays a best selling author of true crime books, the kind of morbid serial killer stuff that bored housewives who rally against rap music and video games get off on, who is dealing with a murderer who claims to be an agent of Lucifer. There's also some shit with numbers. You know that show Numb3rs? The one the really plain-looking girl on your freshman hall was a fan of on Facebook? It's like that, and just as shitty.

There's some sort of plot where its revealed that sad sack lapsed Catholic serial killer expert guy is revealed to have been born of the incestuous union of an evil Satanic priest and his sister to bring about the rise of the Antichrist. It's never really revealed why the hell a guy banging his sister automatically equals Antichrist, apparently it's in Deuteronomy (which begs the question, why isn't this a Jewish apocalypse movie?). If this were really the case, Alabama would be the gateway to the Lake of Fire.

Lost Souls has the dubious honor of being the directorial debut of Janusz Kaminski, Steven Spielberg's longtime cinematographer with whom he has collaborated on every film since Schindler's List. Kaminski had a definite visual touch; the movie looks great, in fact one might easily be tricked by seeing the movie in two minute slices that this is a Spielberg film, because it certainly looks like one.

That being said, Lost Souls is an absolutely terrible affair, steeped in cliches and bad acting. It's unfortunate history and hackneyed been-there, done-that plotting only serve to remind one of better films gone by. If I see another "morose Catholic recovers their faith by defeating the Devil" story I'm going to go berserk. Hasn't anyone heard of the Problem of Evil around here?

What's that you say? The Last Exorcism opened at number one at the box office this past weekend?

Lost Souls is ranked #95 on the Rotten Tomatoes Worst 100 list with 7% freshness. Its RT page can be found here.